"Kemp Owyne" follows the traditional ballad form of being a song with a developing plot in which a character describes critical moments which build to a final dramatic event that resolves any and all conflicts. The moments which reveal the conflicts and resolution are arranged in quatrain stanzas with rhyming second and fourth lines. The ballad reveals, rather than just tells, by describing the critical moments in the sequence of events: An evil stepmother curses a pretty maiden, casting her into the sea as a monstrous creature who will remain as such until the prince Kemp Owen climbs Eastmuir craig and kisses her three times. She meets the prince, but he only kisses her once and then twice. Finally, Kemp Owen mounts the craig and gives her three kisses; then, the monster changes into a beautiful maiden and the stepmother is condemned to wander alone through Wormie's Wood.
In the course of this tale there are several poetic devices used.
- Alliteration -
Her mother died when she was young
Causing her to weep and moan.
Her father wed the worst woman /w/
And thrown her in the salt, salt sea. /s/
On Eastmuir crag condemned to crawl. /c/
But from her mouth the fire still flew
The sky glowed 'though the sun grew dim.
As he put his foot on shore...
The fiery heat blistered his skin.
The meter in this poem varies from Iambic tetramenter--"A mile/ before/ he's reached/ the shore [unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable]
to Trochaic - "Was it man/ or vile wo/man" [two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable]