Barzun traces English speakers' prejudice toward French verse to a resistance to the French Neoclassicists writing between 1640 and 1830 and a misunderstanding of the French language. He illustrates the virtues of French poetry by showing how French, a vocalic, unstressed language, lends a great variety of rhythm to French verse, making it not at all monotonous. Early Romanticists, like Chenier, began to depict the abject poor, and Lamartine used lowly terms like ``filthy clothes'' and ``naked swimmer'' as early as 1821 in his Meditations Poetiques . Then Victor Hugo loosened the 12-syllable alexandrine, once straitjacketed by classists' rules, thereby nullifying any objections English speakers could have regarding French poetry's loftiness and strict poetic rules. Barzun's analysis of French poetic production of every age will enhance the lay reader's appreciation of French verse from Ronsard to the present.-- Bob Ivey, Memphis State Univ. Libs., Tenn.