What is an End-Stopped Line?

An End-Stopped Line is where a line ends with a piece of grammar, usually a full-stop or another common form of punctuation such as a semi-colon.  As a result, there is usually a natural pause at the end of the line.

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The opposite technique is called enjambment, in which a sentence runs onto the next line or stanza without pause.

Why is an End-Stopped Line used?

  • Develop a Rhythm:  Some forms of poetry which have a range of line lengths are more likely to depend on natural pauses, whether there is an end-stop or not, but the use of end-stopped lines can help to develop pauses and contribute to the overall rhythm of the poem.
  • Placing Emphasis:  Using an end-stopped line helps to place additional emphasis on a phrase or section of text.  This is particularly the case if a sentence is short and the disruption to the overall rhythm is unexpected.  End-stopped lines can be used in conjunction with enjambment to provide further contrast.

Examples of End-Stopped Lines

End-stopped lines are used in ‘From the Journal of a Disappointed Man’ (Poems of the Decade) by Andrew Motion in order to provide contrast.

“even the men; very powerful men;”

Most stanzas conclude with terminal caesura in the form of an end-stopped line, however in the beginning of the poem there are a couple of exceptions, allowing ideas and imagery to continue on to the next stanza.  Some enjambment is used to bring diversity to the pace of the poem, showing how these two techniques can be used together.

‘The Lammas Hireling’  (Poems of the Decade) by Ian Duhig also provides examples of the use of end-stopped lines to help place emphasis.

“I saw him fur over like a stone mossing.”

“His lovely head thinned.  His top lip gathered.”

The way in which the reader’s attention is drawn to these specific lines as a result of them being end-stopped is notable, and is even more effective when read in context with the rest of the poem.  “His top lip gathered.” also demonstrates how the use of this technique can combine with the overall meter and use of syllables, with the sentence building up towards the final word.

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