(The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.XVII. Ballads.)
The popular ballad... is a narrative poem without any known author or any marks of individual authorship meant, in the first instance, for singing, and connected, as its name implies, with the communal dance, but submitted to a process of oral tradition among people free from literary influences and fairly homogeneous. Conditions favourable to the making of such poetry ceased to be general after the fifteenth century; and, while it was both composed and preserved in isolated rural communities long after that date, the instinct which producted it and the habit which handed it down by word of mouth were, alike, a heritage of the past.