The last two systems move out of the accentual and syllabic frameworks altogether.
- Free verse is by far the more important
of these two for poetry in English. The name "free verse" comes from
the French vers libre; poets writing in English and French developed
the theory and practice of free verse from the 1880s to the early decades
of the twentieth century. Free verse follows no single pattern of stresses,
syllables, or line length, but as poets and critics frequently protest, that
lack of pattern does not imply that the verse has broken "free" of convention
entirely. Early writers of free verse, such as Walt Whitman, knew the conventions
of metrical verse inside and out, and the best free verse generally exhibits
the same kind of understanding. That is to say, free verse does not abandon
the rhythms of metered verse entirely; it rather uses them to create a wide range
of effects, adapting and playing with the poet's traditional tools. For that reason,
many writers have attempted to introduce new names for free verse, but "free verse"
has so much historical momentum that it will not easily yield its place.
- The last system, quantitative verse, governs Greek and Latin verse. Although some
writers have attempted to transfer the principles of quantitative verse to
poetry in English, their efforts have generally proven the extreme difficulty
or impossibility of doing so successfully. Therefore, to learn more about the
details of quantitative verse, you should consult sources concerned primarily
with Greek and Latin poetry.