The word "verse" comes to us from the Latin , a "turning," and denotes the turning from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, as for us today, the line was the basic unit of poetry, just as the sentence is the basic unit of prose.
It takes special pleasure in focusing on the verbal music inherent in language.
When we hear a poem, we may recognize certain patterns, such as a regular beat, a rising rhythm, or a series of rhymes.
The long, rolling, repetitive lines of American poet Walt Whitman and the passionate Hebrew psalms found in the Holy Bible are well-known older examples of free verse.
Free verse has grown in popularity since the early twentieth century and has now pretty well "swept the field," as poet Stanley Kunitz observed.
This is an important point, to which we'll want shortly to return, but let's consider verse and its patternings a little farther.
It is surprising to some people to learn that more than ninety percent of the poems in any standard anthology of English poetry are written in formally structured, highly patterned metrical verse.
(If unrhymed, it is called blank verse, as in Milton's Paradise Lost or Shakespeare's dramatic verse.) The exception to this is free verse, which abandons metrical regularity altogether.
Yet it, too, "turns" on the basic unit of the line and may rightfully be called verse.