How do you identify caesura?

1 Answer
Aug 23, 2017

In older works, the caesura is often marked with the || symbol. Here's an example from Alexander Pope:

To err is human; || to forgive, divine.

Other times, a caesura may be marked simply with a / symbol.

But caesurae can be found all over and can created simply with punctuation. Here's a verse of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem:

Dead ! One of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead ! both my boys ! When you sit at the feast
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me !

Here, there are caesurae located after both instances of Dead !

If you're reading a poem and the punctuation indicate a clear break or stop, like the exclamation point did, that's a caesura.

Caesurae could also occur with periods, semicolons, ellipses, enjambment, or even commas. It all depends on the context of the poem. Some caesurae may even me debatable -- readers can interpret the flow of a single poem in many different ways.