We had too much of Taylor Swift’s broken heart in English class just to fully embrace the elements that make a piece of writing a ballad. What is interesting to note is that ballads that are as old as time, tracing back to the Middle Ages, tell of the same heartaches commonly caused by unrequited love. Which I can’t help but wonder: How can somebody as pretty as Tay feel so unloved?
But that is not really the point here. The point is, the ballads in Taylor Swift’s songs are the same stories of tragedy out of love that is never meant to be, lines in question and answer format just to get a heartbreak across, loads of repetitions to stress pain, and a depth of emotions from conventional phrases-elements that make poems ballads.
Dissecting the traces of heartbreak began with a sing-along to the music of The Script, which my students made me appreciate more when they expressed that the title “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” is actually just a conventional phrase to mean not being able to move on. I used to think the song is about some lonesome traveler. This was followed by song interpretations of Taylor Swift’s songs, which was rather off key given the little time for them to prepare a story line for the supposed break up stories of Tay. Nevertheless, it led me to pause and think of my own Taylor Swift song. Segue from the classroom ideas talk, I found out that I have all the right in the world to own “Ours” as the Taylor Swift song of my love life and let the lyrics speak for itself:
Seems like there’s always someone who disapproves
They’ll judge it like they know about me and you
And the verdict comes from those with nothing else to do
The jury’s out, but my choice is you.
So don’t you worry your pretty little mind
People throw rocks at things that shine
And life makes love look hard
The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this love is ours
At any rate, students might have had much of the elements of ballads until they were given the time to speak of their own heartbreaks by dropping an object to symbolize them and guided by a journal prompt entitled “My Life’s Greatest Heartbreak.” Responses were drawn from silly like a very low Geometry quiz to overwhelming like a picture of a coffin to stand for the death of one’s dear mother. In between, I was holding back my own tears as I saw how painful it would really be having hearts broken at such tender age.
I should have known to be prepared for the juvenile thoughts my students have about moving on and breaking apart. When they read about Lord Randal who is sick at heart and Bonny Barbara Allan suffering from the same unrequited love, it was amazing how they can give a part of their hearts through pieces of advice as to how Lord Randal and Bonny Barbara Allan move on after their hearts had been broken. All these thoughts I have discovered while reading through their responses to the quiz tailored as an advice column. While I am still checking most of the worksheets, this is so far my favorite:
Ballads will always be ballads. It was a week of heartbreaks. Well, we all need to feel broken from time to time, so we understand how powerful love is to prompt us to gather the pieces of our broken heart which are the very things that actually make us feel whole again.
image from http://www.stylopics.com