The last verse form for consideration is free verse or vers libre (not to be confused with blank verse). It is unrhymed and, as the name implies, is free of any regular meter. It stands close to the dividing line between prose and verse, being distinguished from prose in having a more marked rhythm, but a rhythm not as marked as that in metered verse. The line rather than the foot is the rhythmical unit, and lines vary in length in accordance with the demands of content. Though poets have experimented over the centuries with verse essentially free, free verse as a widely used form in our own day stems largely from the poetry of Walt Whitman. His As Toilsome I Wander'd Virginia's Woods, inspired by an incident during the Civil War, is an example:

As toilsome I wander'd Virginia's woods,
To the music of rustling leaves kick'd by my feet (for 'twas autumn),
I mark'd at the foot of a tree the grave of a soldier;
Mortally wounded he and buried on the retreat (easily all could I understand),
The halt of a mid-day hour, when up! no time to lose-yet this sign left, 5
On a tablet scrawled and nail'd on the tree by the grave,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.

Long, long, I muse, then on my way go wandering,
Many a changeful season to follow, and many a scene of life,
Yet at times through changeful season and scene, abrupt, alone, or in the crowded street, 10
Comes before me the unknown soldier's grave, comes the inscription rude in Virginia's woods,
Bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.


Intro | Verse Forms | Ballad | Dramatic | Lyric | Epigram | Sonnet
Ode | Elegy | Epic | Blank Verse | Free Verse