The vast majority of books on French verse, published in France, present a Romantic or post-Romantic notion of the nature of poetry: a view of the poem as a brief lyric distinguished by concrete, striking imagery which expresses the sincere feelings of the poet. The poet discovers therein, and transmits to his reader, universal secrets. Yet prior to this "modern view" is another tradition that poems can be short or long; can be narrative, didactic, satirical, and meditative as well as lyrical; can express universal truths, not the individual voice; and that to do so they adhere to time-honored genres, modes, and levels of style. But contemporary critics and criticism ignore this latter tradition. They are unaware of French verse prior to Lamartine or Baudelaire; or they claim that the early masters were not poets, and that poetry has only come into its own in the last 100 years. Thus they assume a canon of masterpieces that emphasizes the period from Baudelaire to Valéry. This book applies to French poetry as a whole the insights of an American medievalist: knowledge of the pre-Romantic tradition and of the contributions of Anglo-American new criticism. It revises conventional notions as to the nature of French poetry (critical theory) and the generally accepted canon of French verse (literary history).