End-Stopped Line

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An Introduction to End-Stopped Line

An end-stopped line is a poetic device in which a pause comes at the end of a syntactic unit (i.e., 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.

End-stopped lines make poetry more coherent and accessible, and help the readers ponder on the sentences. Hence, the reader is able to explore deeper meanings and sense in lines where end-stop is given.

The easiest way to tell if a line is end-stopped is to look for punctuation at the end. That might include a comma, colon, semi-colon, dash, period, question mark, exclamation point, or ellipsis. If the punctuation signifies the end of a grammatical unit, whether that unit is a clause of a sentence or a complete sentence, then the line tends to be end-stopped. Consistently end-stopping the lines of a poem tend to have the effect of accentuating the rhythmic quality of the poem, since it makes the pause occur more regularly.

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 . . .

Other examples of End-stopped line are:

Example 1: An Essay on Criticism (By Alexander Pope)

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

These lines all end with grammatical breaks. Also, these end-stopped lines contain complete phrases and make sense. Here, each sentence corresponds to the length of a line, and that pause slows down the pace of poem.

Example 2: Sonnet 18 (By William Shakespeare)

“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 . . .”

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

Functions of End-Stopped Line

The purpose of using end-stopped lines is to give poetic and rhythmic effect to the literay text. They tend to slow down the speed and give a clear idea of each line by creating a break at the end. Besides, it provides regularity to the meter of a poetic text.

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