Anaphora Examples in Poetry

Anaphora is the repetition of a words or expression at the beginning of a sentence. Anaphora examples in poetry has been vividly discussed in this article.

What is Anaphora?

A Greek word originated from the word ‘repetition’ (ana-back pherein). It was introduced in the late 16th century. Elizabethan and Romantic writers brought this device into use.

It involves the repetition of a word or expression at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, and verses to create emphasis or poetic effect in writing. It is often used in ballads and songs, in oratory, and in the sermons.

Functions of Anaphora:

i. Create Rhythm in a sentence in order to make it fanciful.
ii. Make a text enjoyable and pleasurable for the readers.
iii. Easy to remember for the readers.
iv. Create artistic effect in poetry.
v. Appeal to the emotions of the audience.

Examples of Anaphora:

i. Stay calm. Stay blessed.
ii. Go big or go home.
iii. Be precise. Be bold.
iv. So much work. So little time.
v. It was the best of time. It was the worst of time.
vi. My life is my goal. My life is my purpose.

Anaphora Examples in Poetry:

Troilus and Criseyde By Chaucer

Swich fyn hath, lo, this Troilus for love!
Swich fyn hath al his grete worthynesse!
Swich fyn hath his estar real above,
Swich fyn his lust, swich fyn hath his noblesse!
Swich fyn hath false worldes brotelnesse!
And thus bigan his loving of Criseyde,
As I have told, and in this wise he deyde.

The above lines of the stanza are creating rhythmic effect. The continuous use of the word ‘swich, fyn, hath’ enable the readers to remember easily.

The Tyger by William Blake

“What the hammer? What the Chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?”

‘Blake’ has used the anaphoric word ‘what’ in the beginning of the lines. The poem is considered the introspection of the poet who has some questions towards ‘God’. He is in perplex that the ‘God’ who created the ‘lamb’ is the same who created the ‘tiger’. The writer is suspicious after seeing the body of tiger. In this poem, the religious question is also involved. The writer asks question that why the evil exists in the world? The whole poem revolves around the shape and body of the tiger.

The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness”

Here the writer has used the literary figure of speech ‘anaphora’. The use of words ‘it was the’ in the beginning and in second half of the lines are considered as anaphoric words. These words are creating rhythmic effect in the text and are developing interest of the readers. The poem mainly corresponds to the economic and political unrest during American and French revolution.

Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats

For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! Moe happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,
For ever panting and for ever young;

‘Keats’ is considered as the poet of nature and beauty. He is one of the poets who used wide range of words to appreciate the beauty of nature. ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is one of his best poem. The use of word, ‘for ever’ in the above lines is best example of ‘Anaphora’.

Other Examples:

  1. An equally fine instance in prose is the lament for Lancelot in Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur:

Said Sir Ector… Sir Launcelot … thou wert never matched nof earthy knight’s hand; and thou wert the courteous knight that ever bare shield; and thou wert the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse; and thou wert the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest man that ever struck with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights; and thou wert the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.

  1. The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he gave his speech “I Have a Dream”, which is best example of Anaphora.
    “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice……”

Anaphora VS. Epistrophe

In Anaphora, there is a repetition of words at the beginning of a word, sentence, or phrase, whereas in epistrophe, the repetition of a word usually occurs in the last of a sentence. An example of epistrophe is as under:

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understand as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

What is Symploce?

‘Symploce’ is the combination of anaphora and epistrophe. The beginning and ending words in the lines, phrases and clauses are the same. For example,

“Sometimes clouds rain on the ground. Sometimes clouds snow on the ground.” When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it.” (U.S. President speech)

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