to Johnson, 'ballad' essentially implies singing; but from about the middle of the eighteenth century the modern interpretation of the word began to come into general use.
[Footnote 1: For the subject of the origin of the ballad and its refrain in the _ballatio_ of the dancing-ring, see _The Beginnings of Poetry_, by Professor Francis B. Gummere, especially chap. v. The beginning of the whole subject is to be found in the universal and innate practices of accompanying manual or bodily labour by a rhythmic chant or song, and of festal song and dance.]
In 1783, in one of his letters, the poet Cowper says: 'The ballad is a species of poetry, I believe, peculiar to this country.... Simplicity and ease are its proper characteristics.' Here we have one of the earliest attempts to define the modern meaning of a 'ballad.' Centuries of use and misuse of the word have left us no unequivocal name for the ballad, and we are forced to qualify it with epithets. 'Traditional' might be deemed sufficient; but 'p