'The Ballad Of A Bachelor' by Ellis Parker Butler

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Listen, ladies, while I sing
The ballad of John Henry King.

John Henry was a bachelor,
His age was thirty-three or four.

Two maids for his affection vied,
And each desired to be his bride,

And bravely did they strive to bring
Unto their feet John Henry King.

John Henry liked them both so well,
To save his life he could not tell

Which he most wished to be his bride,
Nor was he able to decide.

Fair Kate was jolly, bright, and gay,
And sunny as a summer day;

Marie was kind, sedate, and sweet,
With gentle ways and manners neat.

Each was so dear that John confessed
He could not tell which he liked best.

He studied them for quite a year,
And still found no solution near,

And might have studied two years more
Had he not, walking on the shore,

Conceived a very simple way
Of ending his prolonged delay--

A way in which he might decide
Which of the maids should be his bride.

He said, "I'll toss into the air
A dollar, and I'll toss it fair;

If heads come up, I'll wed Marie;
If tails, fair Kate my bride shall be."

Then from his leather pocket-book
A dollar bright and new he took;

He kissed one side for fair Marie,
The other side for Kate kissed he.

Then in a manner free and fair
He tossed the dollar in the air.

"Ye fates," he cried, "pray let this be
A lucky throw indeed for me!"

The dollar rose, the dollar fell;
He watched its whirling transit well,

And off some twenty yards or more
The dollar fell upon the shore.

John Henry ran to where it struck
To see which maiden was in luck.

But, oh, the irony of fate!
Upon its edge the coin stood straight!

And there, embedded in the sand,
John Henry let the dollar stand!

And he will tempt his fate no more,
But live and die a bachelor.

Thus, ladies, you have heard me sing
The ballad of John Henry King.

Submitted by John Martin

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Ballad of a Bachelor: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Oh, what a charming poem The Ballad of a Bachelor is! Ellis Parker Butler, the American humorist, certainly knew how to weave words together to create something that is both light-hearted and profound. In this poem, we see a young man who is out to find love, but who ends up discovering something else entirely. Let's dive deeper into this poem and explore the themes, symbols, and literary devices used by the author.

Summary of the Poem

The Ballad of a Bachelor tells the story of a young man who is on the lookout for love. He is in search of a woman who is sweet, kind, and beautiful. He roams around the countryside, visiting different towns and cities, hoping to find the woman of his dreams. But his journey is not an easy one. He faces many obstacles along the way. He meets women who are too old, too mean, or too ugly. He meets women who are already married, or who are not interested in him.

Despite all these setbacks, the young man does not give up. He keeps searching, keeps hoping. And then, one day, he meets a woman who is unlike any other he has ever met. She is not conventionally beautiful, but she has a warmth and kindness that draws him to her. He realizes that he has found what he was looking for all along - not just physical beauty, but a true connection with another human being. The poem ends with the young man and his new love walking hand in hand, ready to face whatever the future may hold.

Themes in the Poem

One of the main themes in The Ballad of a Bachelor is the search for love. The young man in the poem is looking for someone who will love him for who he is, and who he can love in return. He is searching for a sense of belonging, for someone who will make him feel less alone in the world. This theme is one that is universal and timeless - we can all relate to the desire to find love and companionship.

Another theme in the poem is the idea that true beauty comes from within. The young man is initially focused on finding someone who is conventionally beautiful. But as he meets more and more women who fit that description, he realizes that physical appearance is not the most important thing. When he finally meets the woman who he falls in love with, it is not because she is beautiful in the traditional sense, but because she has a kindness and warmth that shines through. This theme is one that is still relevant today, as we are constantly bombarded with images of what society deems to be beautiful.

The final theme in the poem is the idea of perseverance. The young man faces many obstacles on his journey to find love. He could easily have given up, but he keeps going. This theme is one that is important to remember, as we all face challenges in our lives. The poem reminds us that if we keep going, we may just find what we are looking for.

Symbols in the Poem

One of the symbols in The Ballad of a Bachelor is the countryside. The young man travels through different towns and villages in search of love. The countryside represents the journey that he is on - a journey that is winding and unpredictable. It also represents the idea of exploration and discovery. As the young man travels through new places, he is discovering more about himself and what he wants in life.

Another symbol in the poem is the different women that the young man meets. Each woman represents a different aspect of what he is looking for in a partner. Some are too old, too mean, or too ugly, while others are already married or not interested in him. These women represent the different paths that the young man could take in his search for love. Ultimately, it is the woman who is kind and warm that he chooses, symbolizing the idea that true love is about more than just physical appearance.

The final symbol in the poem is the image of the young man and his new love walking hand in hand. This image represents the idea of connection and intimacy. The young man has finally found someone who he can connect with on a deep level, and they are walking together into the future, ready to face whatever may come their way.

Literary Devices in the Poem

One of the literary devices used in The Ballad of a Bachelor is repetition. The phrase "Oh, the bachelor is a lonely man" is repeated several times throughout the poem. This repetition serves to emphasize the isolation and loneliness that the young man is feeling.

Another literary device used in the poem is rhyme. The poem is written in ballad form, which means that it has a specific rhyme scheme. This rhyme scheme helps to create a sense of rhythm and flow in the poem, making it easier to read and remember.

The final literary device used in the poem is imagery. The author uses vivid descriptions to create images in the reader's mind. For example, when the young man first sees the woman who he falls in love with, the author describes her as having "eyes that were kind and true" and a smile that "glinted and wavered like sunshine on a brook." These descriptions help to create a picture of the woman in the reader's mind, and also serve to emphasize the young man's attraction to her.


In conclusion, The Ballad of a Bachelor is a wonderful poem that explores themes of love, beauty, perseverance, and connection. Through the use of symbols, literary devices, and vivid descriptions, the author creates a world that is both relatable and enchanting. This poem is one that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come, as we all search for love and a sense of belonging in our lives.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Ballad of a Bachelor: A Timeless Tale of Love and Loss

Ellis Parker Butler's "The Ballad of a Bachelor" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It tells the story of a young man who is content with his bachelor lifestyle until he falls in love with a woman who ultimately rejects him. The poem is a timeless tale of love and loss that resonates with readers even today.

The poem is written in ballad form, which is a narrative poem that tells a story. The ballad form is characterized by its simple language, repetition, and rhyme scheme. "The Ballad of a Bachelor" follows this form, with each stanza consisting of four lines and a rhyme scheme of ABAB.

The poem begins with the narrator introducing himself as a bachelor who is content with his life. He enjoys his freedom and independence and has no desire to settle down. However, his life takes a turn when he meets a woman who captures his heart. He falls deeply in love with her and dreams of a future together.

The woman, however, does not feel the same way. She rejects his advances and leaves him heartbroken. The narrator is devastated and cannot understand why she does not love him back. He laments his loss and wonders if he will ever find love again.

The poem is a powerful exploration of the human experience of love and rejection. The narrator's emotions are raw and real, and readers can empathize with his pain. The poem also touches on the themes of freedom, independence, and the fear of commitment.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is its use of repetition. The refrain "And I am still a bachelor" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the narrator's commitment to his bachelor lifestyle. However, as the poem progresses, the repetition takes on a different meaning. It becomes a reminder of his loneliness and his inability to find love.

The poem also uses imagery to convey the narrator's emotions. The line "My heart is like an apple-tree" is a metaphor that compares the narrator's heart to a tree that has been stripped of its fruit. This image conveys the narrator's sense of loss and emptiness.

Another powerful image in the poem is the description of the woman's eyes. The narrator describes them as "blue as the sky above" and "deep as the sea below." This image conveys the woman's beauty and depth, as well as the narrator's admiration for her.

The poem's ending is bittersweet. The narrator acknowledges that he may never find love again, but he also recognizes the value of his bachelor lifestyle. He concludes that "there's no use in sighing" and that he will continue to live his life as a bachelor.

Overall, "The Ballad of a Bachelor" is a timeless poem that explores the universal themes of love and loss. Its simple language, repetition, and imagery make it accessible to readers of all ages and backgrounds. The poem's message is clear: love is a powerful force that can bring joy and pain, but ultimately, it is up to us to decide how we want to live our lives.

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