Free verse

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Free verse is a form of poetry that refrains from meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern.

Some poets have explained that free verse, despite its freedom, must still display some elements of form. Most free verse, for example, self-evidently continues to observe a convention of the poetic line in some sense, at least in written representations, thus retaining a potential degree of linkage, however nebulous, with more traditional forms. Donald Hall goes as far as to say that "the form of free verse is as binding and as liberating as the form of a rondeau."[1] and T. S. Eliot wrote, "No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job."[2]

Some poets have considered free verse restrictive in its own way. In 1922 Robert Bridges voiced his reservations in the essay 'Humdrum and Harum-Scarum.' Robert Frost later remarked that writing free verse was like "playing tennis without a net".

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Precursors

As the name vers libre suggests, this technique of using more irregular cadences is often said to derive from the practices of 19th-century French poets such as Gustave Kahn and Jules Laforgue in his Derniers vers of 1890. However, in English the sort of cadencing that we now recognize as a variety of free verse can be traced back at least as far as the King James Bible. By referring to http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Psalms it is possible to argue that free verse in English first appeared in the 1380s in the John Wycliffe translation of the Psalms and was repeated in different form in most biblical translations ever since. Walt Whitman, who based his verse approach on the Bible, was the major precursor for modern poets writing free verse, though they were reluctant to acknowledge his influence.

One form of free verse was written by Christopher Smart in a long poem called Jubilate Agno, written sometime between 1759 and 1763 but not published until 1939.

Many poets of the Victorian era experimented with form. Christina Rossetti, Coventry Patmore, and T. E. Brown all wrote examples of unpatterned rhymed verse. Matthew Arnold's poem Philomela contains some rhyme but is very free. Poems such as W. E. Henley's 'Discharged' (from his In Hospital sequence), and Robert Louis Stevenson's poems 'The Light-Keeper' and 'The Cruel Mistress' can be counted early examples of free verse.[3]

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