Enjambement (enjambment)

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Enjambement (enjambment)

Enjambement (enjambment): French for “striding over,” a poetic statement that spans more than one line. Lines exhibiting enjambement do not end with grammatical breaks, and their sense is not complete without the following line(s). Such lines are also commonly referred to as run-on lines and are distinguished from end-stopped lines. The meaning of an end-stopped line, in which a grammatical pause marked by punctuation and the physical end of the line coincide, is complete in itself.

EXAMPLES: The second, third, and fourth lines of the following passage from an untitled sonnet published in 1807 by William Wordsworth exemplify enjambement, whereas the first line is end-stopped:

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,

The holy time is quiet as a Nun

Breathless with adoration; the broad sun

Is sinking down in its tranquility.

Amiri Baraka used enjambement in his poem “An Agony. As Now” (1964), the first stanza of which follows:

I am inside someone

who hates me. I look

out from his eyes. Smell

what fouled tunes come in

to his breath. Love his

wretched women.