Enjambment in a Poem

A question often strikes our mind what is a Enjambment in a poem? The answer is that Enjambment is a poetic form. That means running over the sense and grammatical structure from one verse line or couplet to the next without a punctuated pause.

What is a Enjambment?

‘Enjambment is a poetic form that means running over the sense and grammatical structure from one verse line or couplet to the next without a punctuated pause. It’s a concept, sense, phrase, or clause in a line of poetry that doesn’t end at the line break but instead continues to the next line.

Poets often utilized enjambment in the 16th and 17th centuries but considerably less so in the 18th century. In simple words, the enjambment means to step over or to run over. In simple terms, enjambment is the continuation of a thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a major gap.

Opposite of Enjambment:

The opposite of enjambment is end-stopped. When a line in a poem ends with a period, comma, or other punctuation, it is called end-stopped, and if the punctuation does not occur, the sense of the line remains vague until the step-over to the next line, it is called enjambment.

Why Writers Use Enjambment:

Poets can write at a rapid speed or rhythm. Multiple thoughts can frequently be communicated without using semicolons, such as periods and commas. It helps strengthen the core idea that could appear confused with pauses.

Enjambment allows thought to expand beyond the limitations of one single line. It can be used to surprise a reader by establishing one idea in the first line and then altering that idea in the second. Sometimes, it can be the revelation of the main idea, which the writer wants to discuss later, and before it, he explains the background.

It drives the reader’s eyes to go on to the next line before the notion has been fully absorbed, producing tension between word and thought.

Enjambment examples in Poems:

Endymion by ‘John Keats’

A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness but still will keep
A bower quiet for us and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams and health,
And quiet breathing.

The semicolon is used in the poem’s first poetic line, and the end-stop is used after the poem’s last line. The middle three lines have no end-stops, indicating that enjambment is being used.

By reading the above lines, we have come to know that the sense of the stanza is not clear unless and until the complete stanza is not read out. Reading one line does not create the meaning; instead, the reader is pushed towards the second, third, and final lines, and by the end of the stanza, he becomes able to understand the whole stanza. This reading is called enjambment.

The next example again comes from the same poem, when the poet says,

Who, of men, can tell
That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
The earth is dower of river, wood, and vale,
The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones
The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
Tones ravishment, or ravishment it’s sweet
If a human should did never kiss and greet?

Except for the last line in the stanza, each of the preceding lines is incomplete in meaning, and after reading the lines, the writer responded to the question posed in the first line.

Here we are quoting some more examples of enjambment in literature.

Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

O, for a draught of vintage! That hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth

In the first line, the writer is talking about the ‘vintage’ whom he has drunk, and in the second line, he explains the ‘vintage’, which was cold and aged for a long time and was buried deep inside the soil.

Church Going by Philip Larkin

The echoes snigger briefly, Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,

The lines above demonstrate the use of enjambment. The first sentence depicts echoes coming from the back door, which does not make sense; nevertheless, the second line continues the previous line, making sense, when the author signed the book and donated an Irish sixpence to those who were echoing back at the door.

The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

So much depends Upon a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.

Although the poem appears hazy, it is bright, expressive, and comprehensive in its meaning. Each word of the poem piques our interest; it is only after reading the entire poem that we understand the writer is discussing agricultural land and the labor-manual work that goes along with it. The poem’s first line is interesting when the writer depends upon something. In the second line, he discusses the red wheelbarrow, the imagery of the labor work, and the third line shows that the wheelbarrow is wet but not overflowing with water beside the white chickens.

Daffodils by William Wordsworth

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

The poet has drawn a parallel between daffodils and sea waves in this poem. The description of moving daffodils and the waves have been equivocally discussed. The writer portrays the dance of waves beside the daffodils in the first poetic line, and in the second, he adds to the notion that the dance of daffodils was more enticing than the waves of the seas.

The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake

And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry “‘weep! ‘weep? Weep! ‘weep!”

The first line of the stanza does not create complete sense when the writer depicts his father’s deed of selling his tongue, and the explanation of that act is explained in the second line when he states that his father sold out the tongue when he could barely cry and mourn.

Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney

I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus, and dank moss.

The writer expresses his affection for the dark drop, the trapped sky, and the aromas of waterweed, fungus, and dank moss in the lines above. The first line does not make sense, but the second line describes the whole meaning of the dark drop, which was made of waterweed.

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