What Are Some Beowulf Caesura Examples?



Almost every line in the poem “Beowulf” contains a caesura. In fact, because the caesura was one of the most important aspects of Old English poetry, caesurae may be found in practically every poem composed in that language.

A caesura, or halting point, separates each line of Old English poetry into four stressed syllables and a variable number of unstressed syllables in the middle. As a result, this literary trick can be found in almost every line of “Beowulf.” Here are the poem’s first three lines: “We geardena in geardagum, / eodcyninga rym gefrunon / hu an elingas ellen fremedon!” The caesura appears after “geardena,” “rym,” and “elingas” in these lines.

Because the Modern English sense departs from the relatively foreign grammar of Old English, the caesura can be difficult to express in English translation. The poem’s first line, however, retains the core impact: “So! The Spear-Danes in days gone by…” “So! The Spear-Danes” and “in days gone by” are the two fundamental phrases of the line. The caesura is the space between these two points. Between these two half-lines, an Old English scop, or bard, would have paused softly. Alliteration is another feature of Old English poetry. The first stressed syllable before the caesura usually rhymes with the first stressed syllable following the caesura.

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