Repetition in Poems: Examples & Definition

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  • 0:01 What Is Repetition?
  • 0:57 Examples of Repetition…
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Repetition in poetry can be a very powerful tool to use. In this lesson, we will discuss what repetition is and how it can be used effectively. We will look at different ways that poets use it and talk about the impact it has on the reader.

What Is Repetition?

We hear repetition all around us: commercials repeat sales and slogans to intensify what they're saying and to burn them into our brains. Song lyrics often repeat lines and have catchy choruses that we can easily sing along to and remember. Even in primitive times, religious chants from various cultures often used repetition as well. In poetry, repetition is repeating words, phrases, lines, or stanzas. Stanzas are groups of lines that are together. Repetition is used to emphasize a feeling or idea, create rhythm, and/or develop a sense of urgency.

Examples of Repetition in Poetry

American poet Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem famous for its repetition. 'The Bells' uses repetition to imitate the continual ringing of bells:

'To the swinging and the ringing

of the bells, bells, bells-

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells

Bells, bells, bells-

To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!'

As you can see, the word 'bells' is repeated throughout the poem to increase enthusiasm and to create a memorable rhythm.

In the poem 'War is Kind' by Stephen Crane, the lines 'Do not weep. War is kind' is repeated to contrast the horrors of war. Because these lines are repeated at the end of stanzas, we call this form of repetition a refrain, which is a phrase or line repeated at intervals throughout a poem, usually at the end of stanzas. By repeating 'Do not weep. War is kind.' in a purposeful way throughout the poem, Crane convinces readers of the idea that war is in fact not kind by contrasting the refrain with the other lines in each stanza as the poem's dark details build.

'Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,

Little souls who thirst for fight,

These men were born to drill and die.

The unexplained glory flies above them.

Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom-

A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.

Because your father tumbles in the yellow trenches,

Raged at his breast, gulped and died,

Do not weep.

War is kind.'

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