I'd stress what Jon Tan wrote: "My recommendation would be <p> for stanzas and <br /> line breaks for most verse." Stanzas are usually taught as the paragraph of poetry and verses are referred to as line breaks.

Side note you're free to ignore: I'd argue most of the historical bits below are incorrect in the details, but are correct in general. Jonson's _English Grammar_ is a great snapshot of the period's grammar eccentricities, but hardly a guide that was followed--he didn't care enough to publish it while alive despite how careful he was about publication (I did a Ph.D. one Shakespeare and taught medieval, early modern and modern poetry for eight years before the siren call of web work).


Jody Tate
Web Developer - UW Network Systems

On Jun 19, 2008, at 3:06 AM, Jon Tan wrote:

Historically each stanza in a poem is a paragraph. Layout (new lines) began punctuating paragraphs in the later Middle Ages. Prior to that the lines ran into one another with punctuation used to indicate where breaths and breaks in the running text occurred [1]. Syntactic punctuation was not commonplace until after Ben Johnson's English Grammar in 1640. That means that layout /is/ punctuation for modern poetry, so markup needs to reflect that. My recommendation would be <p> for stanzas and <br /> line breaks for most verse. To do anything that returns stanzas to running text when CSS is disabled would break the syntax of the verse /unless/ lines are specifically punctuated with something other than a break at the end; a comma for example. <pre> is an alternative but does not punctuate line ends at all, except visually. It would be interesting to know how alternative browsers handle both <br />s and single/ double line breaks in <pre> blocks. Do they inject a pause or other aural boundary?

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