The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Enjambement is the breaking of a linguistic unit (phrase, clause or sentence) by the end of a line or between two verses. It is in contrast with end stopping, where each linguistic unit corresponds with the line length. The term is directly borrowed from French. In English, it is also frequently spelt enjambment.

The following lines from T.S. Eliot's poem "Gerontion" are heavily enjambed:

"After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions"

Meaning flows from line to line, and the reader's eye is pulled forward. Enjambement creates a feeling of acceleration, as the reader is forced to continue reading after the line has ended. Compare the enjambed Eliot with these lines, from Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism", which are completely end stopped:

"Nature to all things fix'd the Limits fit,
And wisely curb'd proud Man's pretending Wit:"

Each line is formally correspondent with a unit of thought — in this case, a clause of a sentence.

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46