End-Stopped Line

Definition of End-Stopped Line

An end-stopped line is a poetic device in which a pause comes at the end of a syntactic unit (sentence, clause or phrase); this pause can be expressed in writing as a punctuation mark such as a colon, semi-colon, period or full stop.

According to A.C Bradley, “a line would be an end-stopped line, when the meter and sense both make a natural pause at its end such as in this line, “Yet to be known shortens my made intent…” (King Lear by William Shakespeare)

Opposite of Enjambment

Enjambment is the opposite of end-stopped line. Thus, examples of end-stopped line should never be confused with enjambment examples. When a break or pause comes at the end of a line or sentence, it is called end-stopped line. However, when a break comes in the middle of a phrase or line and idea moves on to the next line, it is called enjambment. Like in these lines, “I am not prone to weeping, as our sex/Commonly are; the want of which vain dew.” (A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare)

Examples of End-stopped Line from Literature

Example #1

Bright Star, would I were as stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite….

(Bright Star by John Keats)

These lines are very good end-stopped line examples. Each line ends with a punctuation mark, a pause comes at the end and has a sense of a separate unit. These pauses give rhythm and tempo to the poem.

Example #2

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

(An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope)

These lines are ending with a grammatical break. Also, these end-stopped lines contain complete a phrase and have sense. Here each sentence corresponds to the length of a line and that pause slows down the pace of poem.

Example #3

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date….

(Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare)

This excerpt is a perfect example of end-stopped line. All of these lines carry a pause at the ending. There is a pause in both meter and sense; therefore, this device gives a complete poetic effect.

Example #4

Come into the garden, Fred,
For the neighborhood tabby is gone.
Come into the garden, Fred.
I have nothing by my flea collar on,
And the scent of catnip has gone to my head.
I’ll wait by the screen door till dawn.
The fireflies court in the sweetgum tree.
The nightjar calls from the pine,
And she seems to say in her rhapsody,
“Oh, mustard-bown Fred, be mine!”
The full moon lights my whiskers afire,
And the fur goes erect on my spine…..

(Alley Cat Love Song by Dana Gioia)

End-stopped line is used in this entire poem where each line ends with a pause. Also, they are marked with a punctuation sign. It gives rhythmic and poetic effect. Apart from that, it provides greater flexibility to the poet.

Example #5

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat, which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear….

(The Burning Babe by Robert Southwell)

In the following lines, the ending of the lines corresponds to the ending of the clause. Also, there are strong breaks at the closing of the lines, which help making the meaning explicit in each line.

Function End-Stopped Line

The purpose of using end-stopped lines is to give poetic and rhythmic effect to the literary texts. They tend to slow down the speed and give a clear idea in each line by giving a break at the end. Besides, it provides regularity to the meter of a poetic text. Also, it makes poetry more coherent, accessible and helps the readers ponder on the sentence. Hence, the reader is able to explore deeper meanings and sense in lines where end-stopped is given.

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