This project has been longer in the making than I care to calculate. It and my tenure at Brasenose College have been roughly coextensive, though, so at the time of writing it must be twelve years at least. No doubt I am easily distracted, but it is fair also to cite the massive, and ever‐growing, burden of administration that professional academics in the UK are these days obliged to undertake. Time for research is very hard to find, and that only intensifies the deep gratitude I feel to the Leverhulme Trust, who in 2004–6 awarded me a Philip Leverhulme Prize. This book would have been quite unthinkable without that research leave, and I cannot think of a better way to express my thanks than that.
Hundreds of debts to individuals have been incurred over this decade, a whole roomful of people on whom I dearly wish I could blame the shortcomings of the final text, but can in actual fact only thank for their time and help. They include Lindsay and Patricia Watson, David Corns, Henry Power, Matthew Leigh, Philomen Probert, Armand D'Angour, Gregory Hutchinson, Kathy Coleman, Laurence Emmett, Michael Reeve, Denis Feeney, Stephen Harrison, Richard Smail, Anna Chahoud, Angelo Mercado, and Tobias Reinhardt. Adrian Gratwick read with great attention my chapter on iambics, and judged it honestly; Philip Hardie published the article that gave the project its impetus in 2000; Hilary O'Shea and Tessa Eaton have exemplified the academic publisher's virtue of patience, and I have been immensely fortunate to have proofreaders as professional as Jackie Pritchard and Richard Ashdowne; and Roger Green explained to me quite how witty my own chapter title was, and what kindness is there greater than that?
I reserve special thanks for two scholars with whom I have been in constant dialogue in the later stages of writing, and who have both improved beyond measure my argument, illustration, and citation, Alessandro Barchiesi and Bob Cowan. I also clearly recall, much longer ago, testing some inchoate thoughts on Domitius Marsus at a graduate seminar on Sulpicia led by Don Fowler and Oliver Lyne. (p.vi) I have indeed been lucky in my colleagues, though we might all have wished that we had been able to spend more time with some. But I am especially blessed in my colleague at Brasenose College, Ed Bispham, who has taught me, patiently, what it really means to be a colleague in a college.
Earlier versions of some of the material in this book have been published in Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society and Harvard Studies in Classical Philology; and in Monica Gale's collection Latin Epic and Didactic: Genre, Tradition and Originality and Alessandro Barchiesi and Walter Scheidel's Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies. I am grateful for all these opportunities to clarify my thinking.
I have resisted metrical metaphors thus far, but this project has also coincided with most of my married life and the arrival and early years of Will and Tom Morgan. There is only one person to whom this book could reasonably be dedicated, and that is to their mother. What is rhythm? A system that admits of expressive variation but imparts a fundamental order, a pleasing predictability. I owe the rhythm that my life now has to Andrea.