- Books, Literature, and Writing
Poetry: Blank and Free Verse
Christopher Marlowe was the first English poet to use blank verse, which is defined as unrhyming lines using iambic pentameter (ta-da, ta-da rhythm, repeated). In ancient epics, ten "feet", each foot having 1-3 syllables with one "da" (stress), per line were popular, but varied according to topic and author.
An example of blank verse by Marlowe is as follows:
Like to an almond tree y-mounted high
Upon the lofty and celestial mount
Of evergreen Selinus, quaintly deck’d
With blooms more white than Erycina’s brows,
Whose tender blossoms tremble every one
At every little breath that thorough heaven is blown.
--Tamburlaine,Part II. Act iv. sc. iii. (circa 1590)
This particular verse contains six lines in its stanza (in poetry, a stanza is similar to a paragraph in prose) and ten syllables in each line, making five metric feet of iambic beat (hence, the term iambic pentameter, with "pent" being equal to "five")--except the last line, which has twelve (12) syllables (iambic hexameter).
Note that each line begins with a capital letter whether or not the sentence is complete. This is a common style in poetry, but not a rule. And, there are only two end-of-line punctuation marks: the comma in line 4, and the period at the end of line 6. Line punctuation can vary considerably in blank verse--everything from standard punctuation to none at all!
For Further Study
A term describing various styles of poetry that are not written using strict meter or rhyme, but that still are recognizable as 'poetry' by virtue of complex patterns of one sort or another that readers can perceive to be part of a coherent whole. --poetrysoup.com
According to mars.superlink.net, Walt Whitman is familiarly credited as the first free verse poet in English. However, free verse in English goes back as far as Abraham Cowley (circa 1665) and includes many other poets who lived and died long before Whitman. Free verse, however, came of age and became fashionable in the 20th century.
Examples: "Song of Myself" and "Fog"
ONE’S-SELF I sing—a simple, separate Person;
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-masse.
Of Physiology from top to toe I sing;
Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the muse—I say the Form
complete is worthier far;
The Female equally with the male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful—for freest action form’d, under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
--Walt Whitman (1819-1892), "One's-Self I Sing" from LEAVES OF GRASS
THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
--Carl Sandburg (1896) "Fog"
Credits and Resources
http:/www.bartleby.com/200/sw8.html (T.S. Eliot's Critique on Marlowe's Tamburlaine)
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/570/03/ (Description of Line Meter in Poetry)
http://www.poetrysoup.com/forms_of_poetry/F (Definition of Free Verse)
http://mars.superlink.net/~neptune/FreeVers.html (History of Free Verse)
http://bartleby.com/142/1.html (Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS)