1869; Englishing of vers libre.
But it is possible that excessive devotion to rhyme has thickened the modern ear. The rejection of rhyme is not a leap at facility; on the contrary, it imposes a much severer strain upon the language. When the comforting echo of rhyme is removed, success or failure in the choice of words, in the sentence structure, in the order, is at once more apparent. Rhyme removed, the poet is at once held up to the standards of prose. Rhyme removed, much ethereal music leaps up from the word, music which has hitherto chirped unnoticed in the expanse of prose. [T.S. Eliot, "Reflections on Vers libre," New Statesman, 3 March 1917]
late 14c., translating Latin artes liberales; the name for the seven attainments directed to intellectual enlargement, rather than immediate practical purpose, and thus deemed worthy of a free man (liberal in this sense is opposed to servile or mechanical). They were divided into the trivium — grammar, logic, rhetoric (see trivial) — and the quadrivium — arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. Explained by Fowler (1926) as "the education designed for a gentleman (Latin liber a free man) & ... opposed on the one hand to technical or professional or any special training, & on the other to education that stops short before manhood is reached."
The study of [the classics] is fitly called a liberal education, because it emancipates the mind from every narrow provincialism, whether of egoism or tradition, and is the apprenticeship that every one must serve before becoming a free brother of the guild which passes the torch of life from age to age. [James Russell Lowell, "Among my Books"]
1902, from French, literally "free verse," lines of varying length.
I remarked some years ago, in speaking of vers libre, that 'no vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job.' The term, which fifty years ago had an exact meaning in relation to the French alexandrine, now means too much to mean anything at all. [T.S. Eliot, introduction to "Selected Poems of Ezra Pound," 1928]
a phrase that stands for "absurd etymology," or generally "anything illogical, outrageous hypothesis," 1711, from the Latin phrase, taken as the outstanding example of such an error.
"A grove (lucus) [is so called] from not (a non) being light" (lucendo, ablative of lucere "to shine;" see light (n.)). That is, it is called a grove because light doesn't get into it. This explanation is found in a commentary on Virgil (Aeneid 1.22) by Servius, a 4th century grammarian, among other places. Other ancient grammarians (notably Quintilian) found it paradoxical and absurd, based on nothing more than the similarity in sound between the two words.
Modern scholarship, however, concludes that lucus and lucere probably do come both from the same PIE root (*leuk-) meaning "light, bright." De Vaan writes: "Lucus 'sacred grove, wood,' from PIE *louk-o- 'light place,' with cognates in Sanskrit loka- 'free space, world,' Lithuanian laukas 'field, land,' Latvian lauks 'field, clearing in the woods,' Old High German loh 'clearing' and English lea 'open field, meadow, piece of untilled grassy ground.' " Apparently the primeval notion in *louk-o- was a lighter place in a thick forest. Migration, change of climate, or felling of the woods might have shifted the meaning.