In the twentieth century, English language poetry began to include poems which were syllabically measured but not otherwise metered. Every syllable in the line was counted and a pattern of syllable counts established. Previous to the twentieth century, poems with lines of a regular syllabic number were also metered. Shaping a line simply by counting the number of syllables in it has been done through many centuries in a wide variety of poetic traditions for example in Welsh, French and Japanese poetry. The syllable is the single respiratory event in the spoken material of a poem. It is sound-based, typically a consonant plus a vowel plus perhaps another consonant. But it can be as simple as O and as convoluted as the word trench. Many languages use syllable count in the poetic line because there are no stresses in the language. But English is a stressed language, so it developed meters, ways of measuring a line which use the common stresses that English words carry. But is modern syllabics a meter? Some critics say yes; others believe such a form is not measured at all because you do not hear the count of syllables. Those critics would call it free verse. But if measure is defined as a count of some kind, then syllabics must be seen as metered and at least there is more measure in a syllabic line or set of lines than in prose.
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