Artificial Versifying

In his 1677 book Artificial Versifying, the English mathematician John Peter describes a simple procedure that can be used “to make almost Six hundred thousand different Latine Verses.” By drawing letters from a set of tables in a certain pattern, one can produce grammatically and metrically correct verses whether one understands Latin or not. This system is, in modern terms, an algorithmic poetry generator—a fully deterministic procedure so clearly defined that it can even be performed, as Peter observes, “by he that cannot Write or Read.”

Below is an interactive simulation of this 350-year-old procedure. Enter a sequence of digits in the box (five for pentameter, six for hexameter—and no zeroes!), then click generate.