"The Ballad of the Bird-Bride"
Rosamund Marriott Watson’s the “Ballad of the Bird-Bride”, veers away from traditional form by using five line stanzas with an A, B, C, C, B rhyme scheme as opposed to the "common meter" that uses four line stanzas with an A, B, C, B rhyme scheme. However, “The Ballad of the Bird-Bride” exhibits traditional ballad characteristics by using enjambment to highlight the main points in the narrative:
Swift I sprang from my hiding-place
And held the fairest fast; (16-7)
The use of enjambment in these lines emphasizes that the man narrating this story has captured the fairest gull against her will and forced her to be his wife. It is important to remember this fact while reading the rest of “The Ballad of the Bird-Bride” because the wife in this poem never consented to a domestic life with the narrator, once again alluding to the repressive nature of Victorian marriages.
Together we tracked the fox and the seal,
And at her behest I swore
That bird and beast my bow might slay
For meant and for raiment, day by day,
But never a grey gull more. (31-35)
The use of enjambment here stresses the central and only agreement that was made between the captured bird-bride and her husband: That he was never to kill another grey gull. This is important to note because once the narrator broke this vow the bird-bride gathered her children and left her husband, which is also highlighted with the use of enjambment:
She beat her arms, and she cried full fain
As she swayed and wavered there.
‘Fetch me the feather, my children three,
Feathers and plumes for you and me,
Bonny grey wings to wear! (56-60)
“The Ballad of the Bird-Bride” also uses the traditional ballad characteristic of incremental repetition by rephrasing the same line in the first and last stanzas of the poem:
They never come back, though I loved them well;
I watch the south in vain;
The snow-bound skies are blear and grey, (1-3)
Mine, wherever your wild wings go,
While shrill winds whistle across the snow
And the skies are blear and grey. (83-5)
The last stanza of the poem also uses enjambment; perhaps to bring the reader’s attention to the last repeated line.
The phrase “She beat her arms” is also repeated in three different ways:
And yet, whenever the shrill winds blew,
She would beat her long white arms anew,
And her eyes glanced quick and wild. (23-5)
Her voice shrilled out in a woeful cry,
She beat her long white arms on high,
‘The hour is here,’ she said. (53-55)
She beat her arms, and she cried full fain
And she swayed and wavered there. (56-7)
“Ballad of the Bird-Bride” also uses alliteration in the following stanza:
Dear, will you never relent, come back?
I loved you long and true.
O Winged white wife, and our children three,
Of the wild wind’s kin though ye surely be,
Are ye not of my kin too? (76-80)
The use of repetition and alliteration in this poem emphasizes that the narrator’s wife is an animal, and though he loved her well, he cannot repress her true nature as a gull.
"A Ballad of the Were-Wolf"
Rosumand Marriott Watson uses the traditional ballad form in “A Ballad of the Were-Wolf”, which centers on a domestic struggle between a husband and wife, and can be thought of as a “primitive ballad”. There are three instances of enjambment in “A Ballad of the Were-Wolf” that highlight important developments in the narrative:
For I hae scotched yon great great wolf
That took our bairnies twa. (11-2)
This use of enjambment highlights two key points in the narrative: First that a wolf has stolen the couple’s children and second that the husband has been engaging in a physical struggle with the wolf for dominance. The second point becomes especially important later in the narrative when the reader learns the wolf is also the wife, meaning the power struggle in this ballad is between a husband and a wife, rather than between a man and a beast.
Fu’ fast she went out-owre the bent
Wi’outen her right for-paw. (19-20)
This use of enjambment highlights the significance of the wolf losing its right paw. The last stanza of “A Ballad of the Were-Wolf” reads:
She stretchit him out her lang right arm,
An’ cauld as the deid stude he.
The flames louped bricht i’ the gloamin’ licht-
There was nae hand there to see! (37-40)
The loss of the wife’s right hand is what connects her to the were-wolf, making it essential to the narrative:
Till she stude but a span frae the auld gudeman
Whiles never a word spak she. (31-2)
This use of enjambment emphasizes the festering anger growing within the wife. The two lines prior read, “O hooly, hooly rose she up,/Wi’ the red licht in her e’e” (29-30).
“A Ballad of the Were-Wolf” uses repeated imagery to highlight important elements of the narrative with the color red:
Sae dour ye luik i’ the chimney-neuk,
Wi’ the red licht in your e’e! (7-8)
The first was white, an’ the last was red;
And the fresh bluid dreeped adown. (35-6)
The “red light” in the wife’s eye can be read as the suppression of female power and aggression in Victorian marriages, because even though the wife remains silent throughout the poem, her primal nature still shines through the red light in her eyes.
“A Ballad of the Were-Wolf” also uses internal rhymes and dialogue to enhance the language of the poem:
The rain fa’s chill, and the win’ ca’s shrill (3)
Sae dour ye luik, i’ the chimney-neuk (8)
‘Twas a sair, sair strife for my very life (15)
But I’ll hae her heart or e’er we part (18)
The flames louped bricht i’ the gloamin’ licht (39)
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