Tum-diddyumtum-tumtum. Yes, a simple pattern of taps. But it has asignificance. Try it out with your fingers. The neurologists tell us that our brains respond to such rhythms and form corresponding patterns in our neurons.

This is why marching and dancing are not only synchronised, but also its participants become consciously aware of the group who are sharing that rhythm in their brains. Watch a squad drilling on Horse Guards Parade and you see one unit and one purpose. The evolutionists suggest that this is how poetry started. The chants and songs used by primitive societies brought them together, built up their courage and, when necessary, created a collective force to face the enemy. Change “pattern” to “metre” and the connection is obvious.

Early great poetry used metre alone to raise the grandeur of the account and to support memorability. Homer’s works were probably not written down for hundreds of years. Milton provides a more recent example in Paradise Lost. I have marked the five feet (pentameter) in the second line,

I may assert eternal providence,

And just–ify–the ways–of God–to men

Sometimes people complain about the lack of rhyme in much modern poetry. Is it really poetry at all? But Milton would have disagreed: he referred to “the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming”. And so did Dryden. Some argue that rhyme can interfere with meaning, others claim that rhyme forces the poet’s mind to explore. Who would be without Chaucer’s 14th-century poetry?:

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