Caesura in Poetry: Definition & Examples

What is a Caesura?

We all speak. We all breathe. We all take breaths while we speak. When we say, ‘Julie made the finals in track,’ we take a breath earlier than saying, ‘But Brian didn’t,’ after which any other breath earlier than saying, ‘He fell and sprained his ankle.’ Besides permitting us to talk with out suffocating, those pauses shape the herbal rhythms of our speech. Just as there are pauses in our speech, there are pauses within side the traces that make up a poem. These pauses have a name.

A caesura is a pause in a line of poetry this is shaped via way of means of the rhythms of herbal speech as opposed to via way of means of metrics. A caesura will commonly arise close to the center of a poetic line however also can arise at the start or the quit of a line. In poetry, there are varieties of caesural breaks: female and masculine.

A caesura is commonly indicated via way of means of the symbol however may be indicated via way of means of a unmarried crossed line.


A caesura will commonly arise within side the center of a line of poetry. This caesura is referred to as a medial caesura. For example, within side the kid’s verse, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence,’ the caesura takes place within side the center of every line:

‘Sing a music of sixpence, // a pocket complete of rye.

Four and twenty blackbirds, // baked in a pie.

When the pie become opened, // the birds started to sing;

Wasn’t that a dainty dish, // to set earlier than the king?’

These medial caesurae imply wherein maximum local audio system of English might certainly pause, and on this case, arise on the equal factor because the commas, which serve to emphasize that herbal pause. (Note: you simply heard me use the plural for caesura: caesurae.)

Few more details

Sometimes a caesura will arise at the start of a line, referred to as an preliminary caesura, or on the quit of a line, referred to as a terminal caesura. For example, within side the first line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘Mother and Poet’, the caesura takes place after the first actual phrase of the poem: ‘Dead ! // One of them shot via way of means of the ocean within side the east’

This preliminary caesura emphasizes that first phrase, ‘Dead!’, and displays the grief and heartache of a mom on the lack of one in all her sons. Then, within side the fourth line of the twelfth stanza, the caesura takes place simply earlier than the remaining phrase of the road: ‘No voice says ‘My mom’ once more to me. // What!’

This terminal caesura emphasizes that remaining phrase, ‘What!’, and displays the want to recognize why that accompanies grief; on this case, a mom’s want to recognize why her sons are dead, but she nonetheless lives.

Examples of Caesura

Example 1

The lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” comprise many caesurae, such as the hole line: “Oh, say are you able to see || via way of means of the dawn’s early light…”

Example 2

Children’s rhymes regularly have caesurae as well, for instance within side the rhyme “Song of Sixpence,” which includes the road “Four and twenty blackbirds, || baked in a pie.”

Example 3

To be or now no longer to be, || this is the question (William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”)Nearly each overall performance of this line consists of a caesura after the comma. Some actors may pick out to study the road instantly via with out a pause, however it would sound a piece odd – strive it out loud and notice what the road appears like with out a caesura.

III. Types of Caesura

Caesurae are categorize primarily on totally within side the line. Thus, there are 3 types:

  • Initial Caesura: that is while the pause seems at or close to the start of the road.
  • Medial Caesura: the maximum not unusualplace sort of caesura, that is a pause withinside the center of the road. Most of the examples in this text are medial caesura.
  • Terminal Caesura: a pause performing at or close to the quit of the road.

In many classical meters, caesura become a demand of positive traces. Latin, Greek, and Anglo-Saxon poets have required to area caesurae within side the center of positive traces. Beowulf, the well-known Anglo-Saxon epic poem, has a caesura in every of its traces. (Unfortunately, the English translations don’t maintain those caesurae very well.)

Modern paperwork are a whole lot greater bendy than classical paperwork, so caesurae are not required in poetry. However, they’ll nonetheless be used while a poet desires to cut up the rhythm of a poem. This may have the impact of a dramatic pause. Among one word and the next, or it would surely be a classy choice. In the most effective cases, a caesura can assist offer locations for the reader/singer to breathe.

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