A refrain is one or more phrases or lines in a poem or song, repeatedly occur in such a specific pattern so as to become a controlling ballad or defining fixed forms structural factor. Here the readers will find refrain examples and also its use in poetry.
Originated from the French word ‘refraidre’ which means to repeat.
A refrain is one or more phrases or lines in a poem or song, repeatedly occur in such a specific pattern so as to become a controlling ballad or defining fixed forms structural factor. This literary device is of great antiquity as it is found in the Egyptian Book of the ‘Dead’, ‘the Bible’, Greek and Latin verse, in Provencal and Renaissance verse and in ballads. Often it is considered as similar to ‘repetition’. It usually appears at the end of one stanza or when a poem is divided into different sections. It sometimes used to break stanzas in a poem.
What is repetition?
When a poet repeats any word, phrase, line or sentence; to make stress is called repetition. For example, in the poem, “Leisure”, the poet uses “No time” again and again to stress on his idea. However, the reader can easily observe that nothing about time is mentioned in the poem. Perhaps, he is saying that he has to work more and no time is left.
Refrain V. Verse
‘Verse’ is an arranged writing with a metrical rhythm, normally having a rhyme.
‘Refrain’ is a device used in poetry that repeats at regular pauses, in different stanzas. However, this repetition may include minor changes in its wording.
Functions of Refrain
Following are the functions of refrain:
- To create rhyme & rhythm
- To emphasize a particular point
- It makes easy to memorize the poem.
- Previously refrain was used in the old books and songs but now it has been used in free verse and blank verse also.
Examples in Poetry
“Refugee Blues” (by W.H. Auden)
Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansion’s, some are living in hole’s,
Yet there is no place for us, my dear, yet there is no place for us.
Once’ we had a country and we though it fair’
Look in the atlas and you will find it there,
We can’t go there now, my dear, we can’t go there now.
In the village churchyard there grow’s and old yew
Every spring it blossoms’ a new,
Old passports can not do that, my dear, old passports cannot do that.
The consul banged the table’ and said,
if you have got no passport, you’re officially dead’,
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.
Went to a committee; they offered’ me a chai’r;
Asked me politely’ to return next year,
But where shall we go today my dear? but where shall we go today?
Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said,
If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread’,
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.
Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky,
It was Hitler over Europe saying: ‘They must die,
We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.
“Tartary” by (Walter de La Mare)
If I were Lord of Tartary,
Myself and me alone,
My bed should be of ivory
Of beaten gold my throne
And in my court should peacocks flaunt
And in my forests tigers haunt
Any in my pools great fishes slant
Their fins athwart the sun.
If I were Lord of Tartary
Trumpeters every day
To all my meals should summon me
And in my courtyards bray
And in the evening lamps should shine
Yellow as honey, red as wine
While harp, and flute, and mandolin
Made music sweet and gay.
“The Rebel” (by D.G. Enright)
When everybody has short hair
The rebel let’s his hair grow long
When everybody has long hair’
The rebel cuts his hair short.
When everybody talks’ during the lesson
The rebel does not say a word
When nobody talks during the lesson
The rebel creates’ a disturbance.
When everybody wears a uniform,
The rebel dresses’ fantastic clothes,
When everybody wear’s fantastic clothes,
The rebel dresses soberly”.
Stopping woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep”.
‘Frost’ has used refrain in the last stanza of his poem, he repeats the second last and last line in order to create rhythm to the poem and lay emphasis on this idea of doing many thing before dying.
“Disdain me not without desert” (by Thomas Wyatt)
Sometimes, refrain serves to work out an argument in a poem, in which case it will undergo slight modifications. Here the poem of Sir Thomas Wyatt showing refrain:
“Disdain me not without desert,
Nor leave me not so suddenly;
Since well ye wot that in my heart
I mean ye not but honestly.
Disdain me not.
Refuse me not without cause why,
Nor think me not to be unjest;
Since that by lot of fantasy
This careful know needs knit I must.
Refuse me not.
Mistrust me not, though some thee by
That fain would spot my steadfastness;
Believe them not, since that we see
The proof is not as they express.
Mistrust me not.