Midline Breaks

No one says that a stanza has to follow the end of a uniform line. You can break into the white space of a stanza at any point in a line if that will aid in the reading of a poem. Originally this was the norm in verse plays on stage during the Elizabethan era. One actor would say half a poetic line, and another actor would finish it. Poets adapted this playwriting technique to the page, usually in narrative verse that features more than one speaker. Later this metamorphosed into a bona fide stanza break in poems that lacked playlike dialogue. A good example is Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," written in blank verse (as were the earlier plays) but broken at strategic points in a passage without quotations:

Once again I see These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms, Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees! With some uncertain notice, as might seem Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire The Hermit sits alone.

These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: . . .

In this excerpt, Wordsworth end-stops the midline stanza break to augment the solitude of the hermit. The white space that follows implies that the narrator is pondering some deep truth. Then the poem continues, articulating that truth — again, via the stanza.

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Responses

  • Rayan
    What is a midline in poetry?
    8 years ago
  • Kirsi
    What is a midline of a poem?
    7 years ago

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