What is Enjambment?
Although the term enjambment may seem strange and new to you, this actually refers to a very common feature in poetry. Enjambment is the incomplete syntax at the end of a line. You may have read many poems where lines continue to the other lines. Thus, enjambment is the continuation of a sentence from one line to another, without terminal punctuation.
Read more about Enjambment.
The opposite of enjambment is end-stopped lines. In end-stopped lines, the phrase, clause or sentence ends at the end of the line.
Read more about the difference between End-stopped lines and enjambment.
Let’s look at examples of enjambments in order to understand this literary device more clearly.
“I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities; but I have
That honorable grief lodged here which burns
Worse than tears drown….”
-“The Winter’s Tale” by William Shakespeare
“When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.”
– “Birches” by Robert Frost
Why is Enjambment Used
Enjambment allows a poem to carry an idea naturally beyond the restrictions of a single line. It also facilitates the smooth flow or continuation of an idea from one line to another. It can help the readers to continue thinking about the idea which is expressed in one line, which then continues to the other lines.
The pause in the line-end and the suggestion to continue prompted by the incomplete meaning, also create a kind of tension. Therefore, enjambment is used by poets to add surprise and tension to their poetry. Some poets also use enjambment to create humor.
Moreover, enjambment introduces a sense of natural motion to the poem. This also allows the poet to create a strong rhythm. A poet can also use enjambment to express a complicated concept or idea in multiple lines.
Summary of Enjambment Usage
- Enjambment is the continuation of a sentence from one line to another, without terminal punctuation.
- Enjambment allows a poem to carry an idea naturally beyond the restrictions of a single line.
- Enjambment introduces a sense of natural motion to the poem.
- Enjambment is used to create surprise, tension, and humor in a poem.
“Blake echoing green” By William Blake – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia