I want to know if the last line of this stanza (in Frost's Tree by My Window) is enjambed. I want to pause after it, but would like to know whether that's because of the meter, or there can be a comma there.

Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,

And thing next most diffuse to cloud,

Not all your light tongues talking aloud

Could be profound.

So far I've been working up. So trying to decide if the last line here is subordinate to the third. What I think I know:

  • "talking" cannot be the predicate in an independent clause because it is the gerund or present participle of the verb.
  • independent clauses always have a predicate.
  • the last line probably isn't a dependent clause, because it would then be missing a subject yet begins with "could".

However, I'm still wondering whether "light" could be the predicate in that third sentence. So my specific questions are:

  1. Can subject and predicate be inverted like that?
  2. Could that third line end with a comma? Perhaps because "talking aloud" is in effect in parentheses, or perhaps because the last line has the former proposition as its subject.
  • 1
    Firstly, "light" is an adjective. Then, the subject of the third line is "tongues" (more accurately, the noun phrase "Not all your light tongues"). Next, the last line does have a subject: it's the tongue phrase in the line before it, which is why there is no comma. Not all your light tongues talking aloud could be profound . (Not even the sum total of all your lightweight voices could say anything with depth). ...[Araucaria's answer has just popped up]. – Margana Sep 29 '15 at 14:46
  • i think you misunderstood the third bullet point, in which i meant to claim that if it was a dependent clause, it would be missing a subject. i noticed a few mistakes i made in my hurry, thanks ! – concerned Sep 29 '15 at 18:06
  • I am somewhat puzzled by your question: "could that third line end with a comma?" There is no comma in the poem as it stands. So the answer is no: if you put one in, you've made it a different poem. "Not all your light tongues talking aloud could be profound" has no need of a comma, and talking aloud is not really parenthetical. As Araucaria and I have said, the subject is "not all your light tongues talking aloud". If you look up all the questions about comma usage on this site, you will realise that it is very often impossible to be categorical about the matter. – Margana Sep 29 '15 at 22:51
  • Also, "enjambement ... is incomplete syntax at the end of a line", so strictly speaking it is the third line of the stanza which is enjambed. But yes, there is enjambement between the two lines. " I want to pause after it..." Yes, you do, but you must carry on. That provides a tension, and the main reason for enjambement – – Margana Sep 29 '15 at 22:52
  • @Margana enjambment can be correctly used to mean either. here, i am asking if the new line is a clause. – concerned Sep 29 '15 at 23:36

This post addresses the Original Poster's concerns about the main clause. Although this is not a full answer to the question, it is too long to put in the comments.

The main clause is:

  • not all your light tongues talking aloud could be profound

The Subject of this clause is:

  • not all your light tongues talking aloud

This long noun phrase includes a postmodifying participle clause:

  • talking aloud

The head noun in the noun phrase is the word tongues.

  • so categorically not enjambed? – concerned Sep 29 '15 at 18:08
  • i am looking for a categorical answer that a comma can't be put there, because ofc poems can exploit ambiguity (including in grammar) – concerned Sep 29 '15 at 18:24
  • thanks for the reply. but if you can't say whether it can be read that way, then i will just end up asking ten separate questions to try to work it out, probably getting banned in the process – concerned Sep 29 '15 at 18:40
  • @Margana You still need to move a couple of them to under the OP's post instead of under mine, thanks :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Sep 29 '15 at 22:52

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