How to Cite Verse

by Dr. Lynne Simpson, Presbyterian College English Department
A quoted line of verse, or part of a line, should appear within quotation marks as part of
your text. You may also incorporate no more than two or three lines in this way, using a
slash with a space on each side ( / ) to separate lines of verse. Note that all the following
examples are correctly double spaced.
Syrie represents a Utopia: “No dearth is ever known there, no disease / wars on the folk,
of ills that plague mankind” (15.461-62).
“No dearth is ever known there, no disease / wars on the folk, or ills that plague
mankind” (15.261-62), fondly recalls Eumaios.
Note that the citation in parentheses refers first to the book number (in Arabic rather than
Roman numerals) followed by the line numbers (461-62 rather than 461-2). You need not
include the title of the work itself when the source is obvious and clear to your readers.
Sometimes––though not often in short essays––you will want to quote a larger block of
text, which you then should discuss in close, careful detail. Usually this sort of quotation
will be introduced by a full colon (:) and then indented ten spaces (or two tabs) from your
left-hand margin. You will no longer need slashes to separate lines; instead, the quotation
should appear exactly as it does on the printed page.
Homer imagines Syrie as a Utopia where the gods alone––not other human beings––
bring death:
No dearth is ever known there, no disease
wars on the folk, of ills that plague mankind;
but when the townsmen reach old age, Apollo
with his longbow of silver comes, and Artemis,
showering arrows of mild death. (15.461-65)
Although death still is described metaphorically in terms of war through the images of the
longbow and showering arrows, it only comes “mildly” to the aged.