The ballades are arranged in two pairs of two, the members of each pair being in parallel keys. The first ballade was inspired by a Scottish poem "Edward" found in a collection "Stimmen der Völker" compiled by Johann Gottfried Herder. It is also one of the best examples of Brahms's bardic or Ossianic style; its open fifths, octaves, and simple triadic harmonies are supposed to evoke the sense of a mythological past.
Brahms returned to the wordless ballade form in writing the third of the Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118. His opus 75 duets are also ballades, including a setting of the poem "Edward" -- the same that inspired Op. 10, no 1.