What are examples of caesur in poetry?

caesura

As caesura becomes in verse (Metric) a legally defined incision, i.e. a short (speaking) pause, within a verse. The caesura can be perceived as a syntactic, phonetic and metric break. A distinction is made between caesuras that have a fixed position (e.g. Alexandrians) and moving caesuras (e.g. blank verse).

Concept and example

The term is derived from Latin (caesura) and can be with incision translate. As a result, the translation already shows what is fundamentally at stake: an incision [within a line of verse that is performed syntactically, aloud or metrically]. Let's look at an exemplary turning point.


You see wherever you look | only vanity on earth.
What this builds today, | that morning tears down:
Where now there are still cities, | will be a meadow
On which a shepherd's child | will play with the flocks.

The above example is the first stanza of the sonnetIt is all vain by Andreas Gryphius. We have chosen the modernized version for this article in order not to influence the understanding of the caesura through the unfamiliar spelling. We have also marked the turning point in color.

The poem is consistently written in Alexandrians, a meter that strongly determined the poetry of the Baroque (→ literary epochs). In the strict Alexandrian there must be a caesura after the third accentuation of the iambic verse. So she should look for the words see, builds, stand and -child to be found.

Now let's say the stanza out loud, we notice that after these words there is automatically a pause for breath, which separates the various speech units from one another. Such a speech unit is called a colon (Plural: kola) designated. The caesura is therefore the linguistic space that separates the individual kola from each other in a line of verse (see also → Tricolon).

So that meansthat you can basically hear the turning point. When we speak the above verses loud and clear, we involuntarily follow the words see, builds, stand, -child a (speaking) pause and precisely this linguistic incision is called a caesura.

Caesura in the narrower and broader sense

So far, the caesura has been described as it is understood in the broadest sense and conveyed, for example, in German lessons. However, the caesura can also be meant in a narrow sense.

The above example by Andreas Gryphius has a notch after the first three lifts. This is made clear by a respite that we take while speaking and also emphasized in the text because a comma in the middle separates the cola and contrasts in content underline the incision (Above all, these become clear in verse 2 ["build / tear down"] and verse 3 ["city / meadow"] → antithesis).

But that also meansthat the determining verse (Iambus) can be found three times before the caesura and three times after it, whereby the caesura does not separate the individual elevations, but divides speech units. We emphasize the unstressed and stressed syllables as well as the caesura.


Dusiehstwohindusiehst | only vanity on earth.
What this builds today | tear tomorrow:
Where are still cities | will be a way of life
AufdeinSchäferskind | will play with the herds.

You can see herethat the caesura is the verse but not the iambus (unstressed, stressed) breaks up, so that it is complete and is thus present as six syllables with an increase and decrease before and after the caesura. This is how the caesura is described and used in the broadest sense.

Note: The first and fourth verses have 13 syllables, the second and third each have 12. Accordingly, at the end of the 1st and 4th line of verse there are two unstressed syllables. Consequently, the iambus is not "complete" here. This is known as the catalectic verse. However, this has nothing to do with the caesura itself.

One speaks of a caesura in the narrower sense, the linguistic incision is made in the middle of the feet of the verse. This means, based on our example above, that the iambus would not be completely separated before the linguistic incision, but rather between the syllables that belong together.


xX xX x | X xX xX xX
xX xX x | X xX xX xX
xX xX x | X xX xX xX
xX xX x | X xX xX xX

To illustrate this principle, in the example above we switched to the representation of unstressed and stressed syllables. The iambus, which consists of the sequence of an unstressed and a stressed syllable, was broken up by the caesura, what the caesura means in the narrower, stricter sense.

The most important things at a glance
  • The caesura means a linguistic cut that can be made on a syntactic, metric and phonetic level. We usually take a break from speaking.
  • As a result, speaking units are thus separated from each other. These are known as kola. According to the teaching of ancient rhetoric, a colon comprises seven to sixteen syllables.
  • A distinction is also made between fixed caesuras, the position of which is prescribed in some forms of poetry, and free caesuras, the position of which may be movable.
  • The caesura can therefore significantly add rhythm to a text. If the foot of verse, the end of a word and a caesura fall in one place, this can seem almost like a story. However, if these units are severely broken, this can appear inharmonious or bumpy.