The idea in laying out poetry (or verse) is to make clear to your reader (1) that it is poetry and (2) the way it looks on the page in the original text. For these reasons, you must either block the poetry (i.e., indent each line so that it appears as a block in the middle of the page) or separate lines of poetry run into your own prose with space-slash-space (a slash is properly called a virgule), so the reader knows where line ends occur. If you block a quotation, present it EXACTLY as it appears in the original, beginning each line where the author does.
As in all quotations,
a) quote accurately (every comma, every capital, every letter);
b) you are free to adjust the capitalization of the first word and/or the final punctuation to fit your sentence:
O venture bright!
When de la Cruz refers to his adventure as "o venture bright," he expects us to think of the Virgin Mary.
[Here the first letter is no longer capitalized and the final exclamation mark has been replaced by a comma.]
(1) The passage as it appears in the book: I hate and love. And if you ask me why, I have no answer, but I discern, can feel, my senses rooted in eternal torture. (Catullus, Lyric 85, p. 492)Your quotation of it:
Catullus, a poet of emotion, admits that his love is not rational:I hate and love. And if you ask me why, I have no answer. . . . (Lyric 85, ll. 1-3, p. 492)He is more interested in the life of the "senses" (l. 4) than in the life of rational action. He is also interested in involving the reader in his experience--"and if you ask me why . . . " (l. 2)--in order to prevent him or her from remaining emotionally distant from his "hate and love."
(2) The passage as it appears in the book:
When I perhaps compounded am with clay, Do not so much as my poor name rehearse; But let your love even with my life decay: Lest the wise world should look into your moan, And mock you with me after I am gone. (Shakespeare, "Sonnet LXXI," ll. 10-14)Your quotation of it:
Shakespeare's speaker refuses to lay claim to his love after he has departed from the world. He pleads with her: "let your love even with my life decay: / Lest the wise world should . . . / . . . mock you with me after I am gone" (ll. 12-14).
Notice that the lines of poetry are separated by space-slash-space when the
quotation is run into your own prose [and ONLY WHEN QUOTATION IS NOT BLOCKED,
i.e., indented] and that the capitalization of the first word of each line (e.g.,
Lest) is maintained. An elipsis (. . .) is made up of three (and only three)
spaced dots (that are NEVER split between two lines). A fourth dot is added
if a period is called for.
Notice, too, the position of the final period, which comes after the identification of the quotation (i.e., at the end of the sentence).
(3) The passage as it appears in the book:
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to my senses in a dark forest, for I had lost the straight path. Oh, how hard it is to tell what a dense, wild, and tangled wood this was, the thought of which renews my fear! (Dante, Inferno, Canto 1, lines 1-6)Your quotation of it:
In middle age, Dante the narrator finds himself "in a dark forest / for [he] had lost the straight path" of virtue (Dante, 1.2-3). He exclaims at the complexity of a life filled with sin, in direct contrast to the orderly world of virtue he will discover in the Paradiso:[Notice the placement of the exclamation mark after the elipsis.]
Oh, how hard it is to tell what a dense, wild, and tangled wood this was . . . ! (Dante, 1.4-5)
The life of sin is "dense" because the sinner cannot see clearly, "wild" because he is undisciplined, and "tangled" because sin makes the right way appear complicated. Taken together, according to Dante, "how they renew [his] fear! (l. 5).
Finally, what is poetry? You should be able to tell by the way the lines are laid out on the page. If the right margin is not straight, you probably have poetry on your hands. In early literature, epics are written in verse (poetry), and so are plays. Anything might be written in verse. Look at the page.
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