What is an Enjambment? (Examples) – unique guide

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

What is an Enjambment?

Enjambment was often utilized by poets 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.


‘Enjambment is a poetic form that means running over of 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 on to the next line.
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 is not occurred and sense of the line remains vague until step-over to the next line, it is called enjambment.

Why Writers Use Enjambment:

Poets have the ability to write at a rapid speed or rhythm. Multiple thoughts can frequently be communicated without the use of semi-colons, such as periods and commas. It helps to make stronger the core idea that could appear to be confused with pauses.

Enjambment allows a 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 main idea which writer wants to discuss later and prior to it, he explains the background.

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

Enjambment examples in Literature:

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 semi colon has been used in the poem’s first poetic line, and the end-stop has been used at the conclusion of 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 the final lines, and by the end of stanza, he becomes able to understand the whole stanza. This reading is called enjambment.

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

Who, of men, can tell
That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
The earth its 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 its sweet
If human should did never kiss and greet?

Except 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 total 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

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

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 agriculture land and the labor-manual work that goes along with it. The first line of the poem is interesting when writer is depending upon something. In the second line, he discusses the red wheel barrow, the imagery of the labor work and the third line shows that the wheel barrow is wet but it is not overflowed with water which is 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 has 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, 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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