The Case For Meter and Rhyme, Part 2

March 01, 2023 Elijah Perseus Blumov
The Case For Meter and Rhyme, Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

PSA: Listen to Alice's delightful podcast Poetry Says


Intro: The Case For Accentual-Syllabic Verse

Nine Benefits of Meter

1. Compositional Mindfulness

2. Musicality

3. Memorability

4. Structural Integrity

5. Prosodic Expressivity

6. Prosodic Literacy

7. Allusiveness (with discussion of Post-Colonialism)

8. Stylistic Elevation

9. Advocacy of Order

The Benefits of Alliteration and Rhyme 

1. All the above!

2. Sonic-semantic linkage

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Art by David Anthony Klug

List of the most common metrical feet:
Iamb: weak-STRONG (u /)
Trochee: STRONG-weak (/ u)
Anapest: weak-weak-STRONG (u u /)
Amphibrach: weak-STRONG-weak (u / u)
Dactyl: STRONG-weak-weak (/ u u)
Cretic: STRONG-weak-STRONG (/ u /)
Pyrrhic: weak-weak (u u)
Spondee: STRONG-STRONG (/ /)

Versecraft: The Case For Meter and Rhyme, Part 2


Hey everyone and welcome back to my special bridge episode, “The Case For Meter and Rhyme.” This is Part 2, so if you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend you go back and listen to Part 1 before checking out today’s episode. 

Before I begin today, I’d be remiss not to mention an incredibly lovely encounter I had recently. Several weeks ago, I told a customer at my bookshop named Tim about Versecraft. Last week, Tim came into the store specifically to see me and express to me what a huge fan he was of the show, which was so humbling and delightful. Its moments like that which truly make the labor I put into the show worth it, so thank you so much Tim. I also received very flattering emails about last week’s show from my family friend Gail and my friend Alice Allan of the wonderful and charming podcast Poetry Says, and I’m so grateful for those too. While I’m at it, thanks so much to all of you, my listeners, for spending these precious moments of your lives with me. There’s no greater gift than the gift of time, and I’m honored every week to have your ears. 

As a refresher: in the course of Part 1 and Part 2 of this episode, I hope to convincingly demonstrate that, in the interest of producing the highest and most consistent quality of work possible, poets should adopt verse, which is to say metrical writing, as their default, their standard method. To vary from this standard method would then of course be acceptable, but it would be incumbent upon the poet to adequately defend each instance of their variance, as non-metrical composition would carry an artistic burden of proof. 

Last week, I took time to unpack several arguments in favor of non-metrical, which is to say prose composition, and detailed some of my issues with these arguments. This week, I will conclude by offering arguments in favor of verse, which, unlike the arguments in favor of prose, will focus less on ulterior personal and public agendas and more upon discussions of the unique and tangible craft-based benefits that this method offers. 

Before I do that however, it’s worth taking a moment to expand upon what specific kind of verse I have in mind, at least as far as poetry in English is concerned. As I mentioned last week, because one can create sonic patterns out of many different elements of language and speech, there are many different kinds of verse possible, and different kinds are suited to different languages. For instance, unlike English, Mandarin is a tonal language, and therefore Mandarin poets can incorporate tone into their metrical practice in a way that English poets cannot. Similarly, Ancient Greek and Latin have very consistent and regulated systems of long and short vowels built intrinsically into their words, and the Ancients were therefore able to use syllabic duration as a building block of their meter in a way that is simply impossible in much more flexibly delivered English. 

In a language like French, where syllables clip away at a relatively consistent rate, without any strong differences in accent, duration, or tone, poets must rely exclusively on the very faint music of syllable count to craft their meter. French partially makes up for this musical deficiency however by having a rich abundance of rhymes, and historically, it has always been the French method to use rhyme as one of the primary ways to add structure and sonorousness to verse. In this respect, the subdued musicality of the French language becomes a strength: because French is mostly unaccented, rhymes in French are smoother and more delicate than they are in English, with the result that it is possible in French to make extensive use of rhyme without cloying the reader’s ear, a problem often faced by poets working in English. 

Let me state here for the record then that beyond the blanket assertion that, in poetry, meter ought to be preferred to prose, I also think that the metrical method most suited to a given language ought to be preferred before any other metrical method. In English, our language, that means accentual-syllabic meter. 

If one were to ask, what is the most noteworthy musical quality intrinsic to the English language, the answer would be obvious: accent, or what we might call syllabic emphasis. How to precisely define what “accent” means in English is a tricky problem that phoneticists continue to wrestle with. Roughly however, it appears to be some gestalt combination of a raise in volume, a raise in pitch, and sometimes other factors such as elongation and heightened articulation. The fact that in some words in English you can, just by shifting an accent, completely change the meaning of a word, like AUgust vs. AugUST, ENtrance vs. entRANCE, or OBject vs. ObJECT, illustrates how important accent is in our language. 

Since the dawn of English in the Anglo-Saxon period, English poets have understood what a potent tool accent can be, and poetry in Old English was based entirely on patterns of accent supplemented by patterns of alliteration, which, when paired with accents, helped to emphasize them even more. For a fuller treatment of Anglo-Saxon accentual-alliterative verse, I would refer you to my Hopkins and Jarman episodes. For now, suffice it to say that while accentual-alliterative verse is virile and musical and very well suited to English, it isn’t capable of a great deal of subtlety or complex variation. It has an explosive, pounding effect well-suited to the exploits of Beowulf, but perhaps less so to the meditative lyric, though Gerard Manley Hopkins might think otherwise. For increased subtlety, complexity, and range, we need to add another element, namely, the counting of syllables. 

As I mentioned earlier, syllabic verse is the method of the French, and when French-speaking Normans conquered and settled in England, the native Anglo-Saxon accentual verse tradition melded with the invaders’ syllabic tradition, resulting in a hybrid type of verse which is technically and expressively stronger than either of its parent verse types. Recognizing this new strength, nearly all English poets made accentual-syllabic verse their method of choice from the late Medieval period to the early 20th century. Even today, the use of accentual syllabic verse persists among many English-speaking poets who still recognize the unprecedented richness of expressive possibilities it offers for their art. Here on Versecraft, nearly all the poems I’ve analyzed thus far have been in accentual-syllabic verse. For a technical rundown on exactly how accentual-syllabic verse works, I invite you to revisit my very first episodes, but you will instantly recognize it as the method of prosody which is based on patterns of feet, like iambs, trochees, and anapests.

Over the course of this podcast, what we’ve seen from observing how accentual-syllabic verse functions is that it is able to retain the strong rhythmic impulse of accentual verse, yet by compartmentalizing accentual patterns into various kinds and numbers of feet, it is able to not only create more consistent and organized lines, but to vary its rhythm considerably more than plain accentual verse and thereby attain a level of musical and expressive sophistication equal to that of the quantitative verse of Ancient Greece and Rome, from which it borrows its terminology of feet. Like quantitative verse, accentual-syllabic verse can create, through different kinds and combinations of feet, such engaging and sophisticated rhythms by itself that consistent rhyme and alliteration become unnecessary, as in the blank verse of Shakespeare or Milton. However, just because alliteration and rhyme are unnecessary to accentual-syllabic verse doesn’t mean that they don’t offer excellent additional effects which, in moderation, can strengthen this already powerful method. I’ll return to these elements at the end of this episode. 

For now though, let’s remain with the subject of meter. Though my argument here has been cursory, I hope I’ve given reason to believe that accentual-syllabic meter ought to be the preferred meter in English. Not only is it inherently suited to the character of the language, but there is no other type of meter anywhere which is as musical, flexible and nuanced, with the possible exception of Classical quantitative verse, which is impossible in English anyway. 

Now I’d like to return to meter more generally. There are, I believe, at least nine distinct benefits to writing poetry in meter, and marvelously, these benefits can be obtained by writing in any kind of meter. 


The first and most basic benefit is what I would call compositional mindfulness, and is a benefit offered not just by meter, but by all restraints that an artist places upon their craftsmanship. When you shape your creative impulse to a set of requirements, you’re forced to be more mindful of the choices you make. As a result, meter provides a check on careless writing, and encourages one to not only deliberate more deeply on what one says and how one says it, but to come up with creative solutions to metrical problems, a practice which often result in stronger, more innovative choices of words and phrasing than one would have made otherwise. 

The second benefit meter offers is musicality. A poem written in meter has a beating heart, a rhythmic pulse that the ear and eye can follow as it strides, skips and tumbles through the poem’s language. As I’ve said many times before, meter is a sonic pattern, and sonic patterns register to the ear as rhythms which, like music, can sink deep into the flesh of the body and create a visceral response of anticipatory pleasure, the spirit of dance. At its best, metrical poetry can affect a marriage of mind and body unmatched by any art except the most spectacularly written songs. Meter gives pleasure, and pleasure is not only its own reward, but a means by which to impress more deeply and persuasively what is being said. 

This leads directly into the third benefit, memorability. Things that follow a predictable pattern are always easier to remember than things that don’t, and the catchiness and pleasure taken in rhythm only add to the power of meter to be memorable. Here we have perhaps reached the reason why poetry was developed in the first place. Before the advent of written language, all knowledge—literature, history, science, philosophy, liturgy— was passed down orally, and therefore had to be memorized. Pre-literate societies across the globe discovered the same phenomenon— words arranged according to sonic patterns were much easier to memorize. Hard as it may be to believe nowadays, there were hundreds of years of human history where, in many societies, if you had something of lasting value to say, in any sector of life, you would compose a poem about it— a poem that could then be chanted around campfires, in town squares, at religious rituals, or in the halls of kings, bringing both joy and lasting knowledge to your people.

 Even after the invention of writing, the power of verse to engrain itself in the mind was never forgotten. Every poet who wrote in verse— which again, was almost all poets up until the 20th century— did so partly because they wanted their words to ring in their listeners’ minds long after they were heard or read, and that was as true for a philosopher like Lucretius, an astronomer like Manilius, or a historian like Lucan, as it was for a playwright like Shakespeare, a hymnographer like Isaac Watts, a satirist like Jonathan Swift, a novelist like Alexander Pushkin, or a lyric poet like John Keats. To write in verse is to write language that you hope will last, and that will, because of the way our brains are, have a better chance of lasting, both in the individual and collective mind. 

The fourth benefit meter offers is structural integrity. The pattern that a chosen meter follows determines where lines end and begin, and this structural groundwork encourages, in turn, the expression of organized and complete thoughts. Once a meter, and thereby a lineal structure has been determined, it becomes much more straightforward for the poet to plot how to create meaningful stanzaic structures and expressive variations from an established norm. Furthermore, because metrical sentences are formulated according to a strict structure, they are conducive to expressing complete thoughts that either begin and end with a line or consciously enjamb from one line to another. Meter can thus aid the poet in maintaining lucidity, logical flow, and meaningful transitions throughout poems. 

The fifth benefit meter offers is prosodic expressivity, and this particular benefit is unique to metrical composition. Because meter establishes a sonic pattern, a poet has the ability to achieve semantic significance simply by varying from this norm in order to emphasize, subvert, describe, or otherwise draw attention to a particular word or phrase. 

Every variance from a metrical or even stress-based norm can betoken an expressive choice: if we are in iambic pentameter, and suddenly we begin a line with a dactyl, end a line with a cretic, stretch or shrink the meter, create an abrupt caesura, pepper the line with heavy stresses, or make any other number of metrical and rhythmic variations, this sonically alerts the reader that special emphasis has been placed on the words that have enacted this variance. Skillful poets will precisely vary their meter and modulate their rhythms to create sonic effects which emphasize or comment on the corresponding words of the poem, thereby adding an additional layer of expressive power and word-painting to support the verse’s rhetorical thrust. In prose, which provides no metrical norm, this sort of musical-semantic rhetoric is impossible.

The sixth benefit meter offers is prosodic literacy. This one comes down to a simple truth: the more you write in meter, the better you will be able to appreciate other poems written in meter. This wouldn’t mean much if meter were just some newfangled fad, but when we consider that the vast majority of poetic masterpieces, from thousands of years ago up until the present day, have been written in some form of meter, it becomes an issue of legitimate cultural urgency. Let’s take Shakespeare as an example, with the constant awareness that Shakespeare is here a mere representative of the massive international canon of metrical literature. To read Shakespeare without being able to scan Shakespeare’s rhythms is to miss and fail to understand a crucial aspect of his art, and to be blind to one of the essential qualities that make his language beautiful. Beyond the general issue of people simply being able to appreciate the literary fruits of civilization, there is the more specific one of artistic influence: how can you, as a writer, learn from Shakespeare, or Virgil, or Basho, or Tu Fu, if you don’t understand how they’re doing what they’re doing? To be a poet and to not be invested in writing metrical poetry is to effectively shut out the stylistic influences of the greatest poets who came before you. Your poetry, bereft of the ability to draw from the greatest models we have, can only suffer as a result.

The seventh benefit meter offers is intimately related to the sixth, and that is the benefit of allusiveness. When we write in meter, we engage with the poetry of the past, and place our art in a fruitful conversation with others who have written in similar ways. Certain metrical patterns, due to their historical and conventional usages, are invested with associations that the verse writer can draw upon to strengthen the expressive power of their craft. If someone writes an English epic in blank verse for instance, they not only produce a poem, but simultaneously produce a commentary on Milton, as well as evoke associations of and comparisons with that author. Should one decide to write in dactylic hexameter, no matter what the subject is, one will invariably summon to mind the Greco-Roman classical tradition, and how one then chooses to harness that connotation and respond to that tradition adds meaning and richness to one’s poem. By contrast, poets who choose to discard the traditional tools and features of poetry not only alienate themselves ideologically from thousands of years of the history of their craft but lose the incredible opportunity to create cross-temporal connections with poets of the past.

Before moving on, there’s an addendum to this point that’s worth making. One of the arguments for poetry in prose that I didn’t mention on my last episode is what you might call the argument from Post-Colonialism. The argument goes something like this: “Meter, rhyme, and received forms are techniques inherited from dead white males, and to continue to uphold them as the standard of poetic composition is to uphold white supremacy. For this reason, I am morally obligated to write poetry in prose instead.” Now obviously, accusations of white supremacy are not something to be taken lightly. However, it is clear that there is a serious confusion happening here. 

Let’s start by admitting the facts: accentual-syllabic meter, rhyme as we understand it, and many received forms are rooted in European culture, and to a large extent have been transmitted to non-European lands and peoples as part of a larger colonial imposition of European culture on other cultures, an imposition that has often taken the form of enslavement, genocide, and other psychopathic atrocities too numerous to name. For many, meter and rhyme are associated with the culture of the oppressor. 

Ultimately however, that is all it is—an association, and one that can be altered with time. While meter and rhyme and English literature as a whole may have been introduced to some populations under irredeemably evil circumstances, there is absolutely nothing about meter and rhyme that is inherently racist, just as there is nothing inherently racist about the universal insights of Shakespeare, or the sounds of the English language itself. Moreover, at this point, English is not a language that belongs exclusively to the colonizers; for generations, it has been the native tongue for countless people of African, Asian, and Amerindian descent, and an indelible part of countless non-white cultures. For all people for whom English is the native tongue, English literature is their birthright and their project, and while that field has been previously dominated by white men for obvious historical reasons, it belongs and is open to anyone who uses the language.

For all poets, regardless of background, the question we’re asking is the same: what method, verse or prose, is most conducive to producing quality work? If the English language is your medium, you ought to choose the tools best adapted to that medium, regardless of where they came from. Such tools include accentual-syllabic verse, rhyme, and received forms. These tools cannot be owned by any culture, race, or group—they are merely technologies, available to all. Furthermore, these tools are incredibly flexible, and one can find ways to use them that make them entirely one’s own. Not only have many wonderful non-white poets used Western meter and rhyme to this effect, and thereby already altered the tradition for future generations, but we also have the incredible example of Hip Hop as well— it illustrates perfectly the phenomenon of taking the resources of your colonizer’s language, English, and making something entirely modern and unique that still answers the universal human desire for sonorous, organized language. 

We still however have not gotten to the root of the matter. I don’t think there’s any reason that should stand in the way of a bright young poet of any race using accentual-syllabic verse, but even if someone decided that accentual-syllabic verse carried too much baggage for their comfort, that would not give them sufficient grounds to write poetry in prose instead, for two reasons. The first is that, as I have said before, verse in general is a worldwide phenomenon. If a poet is serious about writing work that authentically reflects their roots, they will probably end up writing some form of verse. The second reason is related to the first, and is a bit mind-blowing for those who have never considered it—It was certainly mind-blowing to me when I first heard it pointed out by the poet Amit Majmudar: the reason is, poetry in prose is just as Eurocentric and colonialist as Western meter and rhyme. 

As I mentioned last time, the only reason that poetry in prose is a phenomenon at all is due to the avant-garde efforts of a few disaffected white men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the two most influential of whom, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, happened to be raging racists and anti-Semites. It was due to the global influence of white European and American modernism that other cultures gave up their own metrical traditions to practice so-called free verse. The free verse revolution, far from freeing anyone from the shackles of either meter or colonialism, was nothing if not a massive whitewashing and destruction of all sorts of rich metrical traditions. How can we look at a Chinese or Indian poet writing poetry in prose, a practice completely foreign to their traditions, and not protest at how the West has corrupted their art and disconnected them from the richness of their past masters? Just as I defend traditional accentual syllabic meter for its particular suitability to my own language, so I would defend the optimized metrical traditions of other languages. Poetry in prose is a handicap to us all. 

The eighth benefit meter offers is stylistic elevation. To write in meter is to distinguish what is being said from ordinary speech and elevates it to a level of formality that gives it a sense of additional weight and importance. What is said in meter is “sacred,” in the sense that it is said in a special and uncommon way which separates it from the profane/mundane uses of everyday language. Certainly, meter is not the only method by which speech can be elevated, but it is one of the most effective strategies for accomplishing this.

            Finally, the ninth and perhaps most beautiful benefit meter offers is what we might call the advocacy of order. Work that is written according to a metrical scheme, because it involves weaving an underlying order beneath all that is said, not only expresses the general idea that the mind which speaks is ordered, but also that the world of which the mind speaks is itself ordered or, at the very least, is having order imposed upon it. Meter imbues language with a deep sense of pattern and control, and thereby tells the reader, if only subconsciously, that the poet views the world as orderly and musical, even if it is an order and music which often escapes mortal minds and ears. This is the healthiest, and I believe the truest spiritual outlook we can obtain, and to write poetry that serves as exemplary of this outlook is a crucial way to disseminate it in our culture. Just as the mathematical beauty of the Parthenon positively exudes a belief in the importance of rationality and balance, so too can highly wrought verse, and to foster an environment that sanctions and celebrates the triumph of order over chaos is one of the noblest uses to which verse can be put.  

            It is because verse possesses these nine benefits: compositional mindfulness, musicality, memorability, structural integrity, prosodic expressivity, prosodic literacy, allusiveness, stylistic elevation, and the advocacy of order, that I assert that it ought to serve as the standard method for poetic composition. In certain cases, poetry in prose may possess one or more of these elements, but it will never possess them as a complete package the way verse does. Because poetry in prose is capable of possessing only a fraction of the benefits of verse, and because poetry in prose offers no exclusive advantages of its own, the rational choice, all things being equal, is write poetry in verse. Any deviation from this norm must then be logically defended in order to substantiate the sacrifice of benefits being made. 

            So far, I’ve focused this discussion entirely on the practice of verse. It remains to briefly show why poets should also consider employing the use of rhyme, and I’ll throw alliteration in too. 

Other than meter itself, alliteration and rhyme, are the two principle sonic effects that the accentual-syllabic tradition has inherited from the accentual and syllabic traditions respectively, and they are powerful ways to elevate the musicality and expressivity of verse. The scholar James Simpson, in his prefatory note to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, writes of these methods’ origins: 


“Metrical practice is deepened by the deeper music of a language. In Germanic languages, the accented syllable is usually the first syllable of a word. In Romance languages, by contrast, the accented syllable falls toward, or at the end, of words. Germanic poets therefore highlight the beginning of words with alliteration, whereas Romance poets highlight the ends of words with rhyme.” 


Despite the fact that English remains a Germanic language, it possesses a highly Latinate vocabulary and has been able to accommodate the use of rhyme with a great deal of success. In synchrony, alliteration and rhyme can play off of one another and multiply the musical and expressive possibilities available to the poet. In fact, if we look back at the benefits offered by meter, we will see that each of these is offered by alliteration and rhyme as well. For the sake of brevity, I’ll henceforth call this duo A&R. 

Like meter, the use of A&R encourages compositional mindfulness; to have to stop and come up with words that start or end in a similar way to words that came before forces the writer to carefully consider both the thought and the language with which they’re working. On top of this, A&R can often encourage the poet to creatively rethink what they were planning to say. In particular, the search for a rhyme may lead the poem down a path of thought more interesting and surprising than the poet would have thought of otherwise.

 Like meter, the use of A&R is musical: words that begin or end with the same sounds obtain a sonic symmetry which is satisfying to the ear and increase the pleasure we take in what is being said. Even more than meter, alliteration and rhyme are incredible aids to memory—consider the number of idioms, slogans, nicknames, or brands that rhyme or alliterate, not because they’re meant to be poetry, but because they’re meant to stick in your mind. Poems which make use of A&R are exponentially easier to memorize than poems that don’t, and this is a tremendous advantage to a poem’s ability to influence someone. 

Whereas both meter and alliteration excel at offering structural integrity on the line level, rhyme in particular excels at offering structural integrity on a stanzaic level. The use of rhyme schemes is an incredibly effective way to organize the flow of thought into discrete packets of information, creating sonic associations between certain lines that mirror semantic associations between them, and which can highlight typographical choices made on the page. The combination of meter and rhyme schemes, which are the bread and butter of most received forms, ensures that a poem’s thoughts are organized on every level, categorized and subcategorized in order to make the progression of thought as lucid, rigorous, intelligible, and musical as possible. 

Like meter, schemes of A&R can be varied for expressive effect. If an entire poem rhymes except for one line, you know that line is being given a special, sobering importance. Likewise, if an entire monologue is unrhymed but then concludes with a rhymed couplet, as you find so often in Shakespeare, that couplet will carry particular resonance, as well as structurally provide a sense of finality. Like the word-painting we have discussed so often in regard to metrical variation, alliteration in particular can also be used to enrich what is being said by sonically imitating it. In the phrase, “he gurgled in his garbled, gravelly voice” the repetition of “g”s, “r”s, and “l”s mimics the sound being described, and adds to its vividness. 

Just as the use of meter encourages prosodic literacy, so the use of A&R sensitizes the poet to how A&R is used in other poems. This sensitization carries both obvious aesthetic and educational benefits. Furthermore, like the use of meter, the use of certain alliterative or rhyme schemes permits a poet to allude to poetry from the past—to write in heroic couplets is to summon up the spirit of the 18th century; to write in ottava rima with multi-syllabic rhymes is to instantly offer a reworking of Lord Byron’s “Don Juan.” To write poetry with two or three alliterations per line is to add a distinctly Anglo-Saxon flavor to your prosody. Such suggestions can only add additional layers of meaning to a poem. 

Like meter, the use of A&R adds both stylistic elevation and a sense of pervasive order to a poem. A&R makes a poem more musical than normal speech, and thereby gives it a specialness and atmosphere that regular prose is incapable of. The use of schemes of A&R superimposed upon schemes of meter makes poems even more intricately organized than they would otherwise be, and this adds to the promotion of orderliness of which I spoke earlier. 

Finally, there is one additional benefit to the use of A&R, one which is especially applicable to rhyme: this is the benefit of being able to create sonic-semantic linkage. This is perhaps the most sophisticated use of A&R, and happens when poet can sonically link words or phrases together in order to express a meaningful connection between them. One of the most stellar examples of this occurs in Book IX of Paradise Lost, where Milton allows himself his only rhyming couplet in the whole poem precisely at its climax: 


So saying, her rash hand in evil hour

Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat:

Earth felt the wound, and nature, from her seat

Sighing, through all her works gave signs of woe

That all was lost…. 


In later editions, “eat” was amended to “ate,” but in either case, in Milton’s time the word would have rhymed with “seat.” In his famous preface to this work, Milton had described rhyme as “troublesome bondage,” and we can infer that the introduction of rhyme at this crucial moment represents the moment of bondage for Eve, and thence for all mankind. As Eve bites into the apple, she loses her freedom, not only in the narrative, but verbally. As a punchline, this is tremendous, and is one of the very best uses of rhyme as an expressive technique that we possess. 

This astonishing rhyme however is not only a word-painting technique, it is also a means by which to link the meanings of words. The sonic association established between “eat” and “seat’ implies a semantic association, which we come to recognize is one of cause and effect: Eve eats the apple, causing Earth to sigh in her seat, or foundations—in other words Eve’s action causes the fallenness of the world. Milton’s precise use of rhyme allows for this profound association to be brought home to the minds of his readers in sonic as well as narrative terms.


I hope that I have now demonstrated, to some satisfaction, the excellence of meter in general, the excellence of accentual-syllabic meter in English, and the value of alliteration and rhyme. Though I haven’t specifically discussed any received forms, it will suffice to say that, when used well, they are capable of compounding many of the same benefits that I’ve spoken of here. I hope I have also demonstrated the impoverishment of poetry in prose, which not only lacks the strengths of verse but has no alternative set of exclusive strengths to draw upon. To choose to write poetry in prose rather than verse thus requires adequate justification to lift the burden of proof. 

This is not to say that particular specimens of poetry in prose cannot be superior to particular specimens of poetry in verse, but it is evident that the poet who works in verse and with its associated techniques has a significant advantage over the poet who does not, and because of the superior tools at their command, has the potential to craft richer and more powerful work.