Everyone speaks and everyone breathes while speaking. For example, if you say, "Mary took a break," inhale before continuing, "But Adam didn't." Then take another small breath and say, "He fell on his ankle." Such pauses come from the natural rhythm of your speech. Poetry also uses pauses in its lines.
Such a pause is called a “caesura”, a rhythmic pause in a poetic line or sentence. It often occurs in the middle of a line, or sometimes at the beginning and end. Sometimes it occurs with punctuation; at other times this is not the case. Poets indicate such a pause with a parallel symbol: || .Caesura can occur medially (in the middle of the line), initial (at the beginning of the poetic line) or terminal (at the end of a poetic line).
Types of Caesura
Caesural Breaks or Caesura exist of two types in poetry:
A feminine Caesural pause occurs after an unstressed and short syllable in a poetic line. This is softer and less abrupt than the male version. For example: "
0 I hear the splashing of lake water || with soft noises on the shore… “
(The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats)
There are two subdivisions:
Masculine Pause occurs after a long or accented syllable in a line. like for example:
“from reeds and stick crickets, || He played around in the damp air and laced his boots with grapevines. || Steering glaze beetle ”
(The Bounty by Derek Walcott)
Short examples of Caesura
The headphones explode, || break the mold
Roses, roses! || Two dollars a pile! They say
The boys on the street, || ready to sell you.
Lilac, || Grasshopper, || and roses, || perfume
Ostende, || West End, || wonderfully blooming
From Mother Earth.
You are nobody! || Are you?
No, || You are someone || are you?
My candle burns
It may last until midnight;
Oh but, || my friends, || and ah, || my enemies-
It gives me a bright light
I saw a red cow,
I assure you, || anyway,
I would see that one again!
The day is dark and gloomy;
It is raining, || and the clouds are not tired;
Often in summer, || wild bees turn into tigers, || Its wings
meet black in a hole
Of a rotten tree
Tonight the moon rises
In my window. || Its crystalline light
spread across the room.
From my balcony, || I see the stars
forming blisters in the much brighter river water.
I love the rain, || the seagull dives
I love the rain, || will bring more rain.
The rain, || It falls in my backyard where I see it,
Going down slowly at different rates.
I saw you, || She says -
But who did she see? || -Is
That right-handed schoolboy?
Meow, || meow in my ears,
A kitten follows me everywhere
We get together, || We shout,
Then we gossip together about the festivities.
Examples of Cesura in literature
Example # 1: The Winter Tales (William Shakespeare)
It's for you we speak, || not for us:
You are abused || and for some putter-on
That will be cursed; || If I had met the villain,
, I would-damn. || Let her be by default of honor,
I have three daughters; || the eldest is once
This passage is an instance of feminine caesura, which occurs immediately after an unstressed syllable such as "talk", the second syllable "bused", in abused, "he" and "ters" in the word daughters.
Example # 2: Mother and Poet (By Elizabeth Barrett)
Dead! One of them shot by the sea in the east ...
In what art can a woman be good? || Oh vain!
In what art is she good, || but wounding her breast
With the milk teeth of children, || and a smile from the pain?
Ah guys, // how they hurt! || you were strong when you pressed,
And I proud, || for that test.
This poem is a perfect example of a masculine turning point. Look at the pauses that appear after stressed syllables, including "at", "babes", "boys", "hurt", and "proud". You can see that in the first line of "Dead" the initial caesura is used, followed by a pause at the beginning of the line.
Example 3: Eloisa to Abelard (by Alexander Pope)
Alas, how changed! || What sudden horrors arise!
A naked lover || bound and bleeding lies!
Where was Eloise? || her voice, her hand, her poniard, || had defied the terrible order.
Barbarian, stay! || hold back this bloody stroke;…
Death, || Only death can break the lasting chain.
Pope has often used caesuras in his poems to bring depth. Mostly he used a male caesura that occurs in the middle of the lines. Sometimes, however, an initial caesura occurs, as in the sixth line that occurs after "Death". This variation clarifies the meaning of the text.
Example 4: I am nobody! Who are you? (By Emily Dickinson)
I'm nobody! || Who are you?
Aren't you nobody either?
Then there is a pair of us || - Don't tell!
They banish || - You know!
Dickinson has used male caesural pauses in the middle of verses.
Example # 5: Injured walking (by Vernon Scannell)
The mud and leaves on the mutilated lane
smelled sweet, || like blood. || The birds had died or flown ...
Their heads were weighted down by lead from the night before
And their eyes still drank the darkness. || They follow the night
Along the morning road. || Some limp with sticks;
This couplet uses both caesura and enjambment. Enjambment appears on the first line. In the second, fourth, and fifth lines, the dots make readers pause for a while and create a caesura. Duchess (for my last Duchess)
E'in then would be a bit inclined; || and I choose
to never bend down. || Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt
when I passed her; || But who went through without a lot of the same smile? || This grew; || Say the commands 40 to 4 Then all the smiles stopped at once. || There she is, as if she were alive. || Don't you wanna get up || We meet with
The company below, || then ...
The caesuras in this example tell readers that the speaker is hiding something and pausing to think. Through these pauses, the Duke tries to divert the attention of his readers from himself.
Example 7: Ozymandias (By Percy Bysshe Shelley))
Who said - “Two huge and stocky legs made of stone
Stand in the desert… || Close to you || on the sand…
My name is Ozymandias, || King of Kings; ||
Look at my works, || you mighty ones, || and despair!
Nothing is left. || All about decay ...
The poet has broken up all lines rhythmically by punctuation. The use of multiple caesuras is used to make the lines more interesting. In the third and fourth lines they emphasize the pride of Ozymandias' works, while the fourth line does this, used initial and medial caesuras.
Function of caesura
A caesura interruption creates different effects depending on the type of use. Sometimes it breaks the monotonous rhythm of a line and forces the reader to focus on the meaning of the phrase before the caesura. In some other cases, this can create a dramatic or threatening effect. Usually this happens in the middle of a sentence or phrase in poetry. Plus, it adds an emotional and theatrical touch to a line and helps convey the depth of feelings.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
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- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw