ballad measure, emily dickinson, coke, gilligan’s island, and neil young

Ballad measure, or common meter, is a stanza of four lines. The 1st and 3rd lines have 4 beats and the 2nd and 4th lines have 3 beats with a silent 4th. Here’s Emily Dickinson in ballad measure:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

Once you hear it, you can’t unhear it. It goes, with emphasize on the syllables in all CAPS):

beCAUSE i COULD not STOP for DEATH
he KINDly STOPPED for ME (buhm BUHM)

A fair amount of familiar songs are written in the same meter. Like “Amazing Grace, this famous Coca-Cola song. Reading the Dickinson poem I quote above with one of these melodies is… pretty awesome. For another example, you can sing this Neil Young song to the tune of the theme to Gilligan’s Island:

Old man lying by the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by
Blue moon sinking from the weight of the load
And the buildings scrape the sky

Cold wind ripping down the alley at dawn
And the morning paper flies
Dead man lying by the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes