The meter of Middle English alliterative poetry, Thomas Cable contends, holds the key to a reinterpretation of both Old English meter and iambic pentameter, which in turn provides a new understanding of Middle English meter itself. Drawing upon recent insights in linguistics, Cable articulates a theory of rhythm in English poetry from its beginnings through the Renaissance and beyond. Cable's discussion moves from the rhythms of Old English poetry and prose to the poetry of Chaucer, to Shakespeare and T.S.Eliot. He demonstrates that Middle English poetry does not show the continuity of tradition that some authorities have asserted. Throughout the book, the author asks fundamental questions regarding the intentions of the poet, the impact of the perceived metrical tradition upon that poet, and, with reference to Peircean abduction, the possibility of constructing any metrical theory, especially one from the distant past. The answers and their implications - metrical, cognitive and philosophical - aim to provide the foundation for a new understanding of the creation and evolution of English versification from the 7th century to the present.