Examples of Refrain in Poetry

The word refrain is originated in France. It is known as ‘Refraindre” which means ‘to repeat’. This poetic device repeats at regular intervals in different stanzas. It may contain minor changes in wording or sequence. It contributes to the rhyme and throws light on the ideas which a poet wants to emphasize. The refrains make the poem easier to learn and remember.  Most poets use it for the sake of asserting its importance while enhancing the meter or rhythm of the literary work itself. It makes reading more choral and more musical. You can learn more here: //literarydevices.net/refrain/. Some of the examples of refrains in the poetries are given below:

Annabel Lee – Edgar Allan

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee—

Here the refraining lines are ‘In a kingdom by a sea’. It firstly appears in the second line of stanza and then again in the final line of the third stanza. It helps in stressing, drawing the reader’s attention and contributing to its meter and rhythm.

Stopping By The Woods on a  Snowy Evening – 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.

Here the poet uses the refrain in the last lines of this poem.  He repeats the line twice ‘And miles to go before I sleep’. It gives the rhythm to the poem and lay stress on the responsibilities which he had to fulfil before dying.

O Captain! My captain – Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! Rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up – for you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills.

The poet uses refrain throughout the poem to express a nostalgic theme. We can be found the repetition of ‘captain’ ‘rise up’ and ‘for you’ in the given example. The words are expressing the thoughts and lay emphasis on the respect and the loss of hero (Abraham Lincoln). Through refrain, we can feel the passionate expression of the speaker’s love for his dead captain.

One Art – Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

In this example, the poet repeatedly used the line ‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master’ throughout the poem. This refraining line is a source of rhythm. This line though varies slightly in the last stanza, yet is considered as a refrain. This refraining line emphasizes the idea to master the art of bearing the loss.

Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

These are the first two stanzas of a song from the play. This lyric has a double refrain ‘For the rain it raineth every day’ and ‘With hey, ho, the wind and the rain’. It has two lines that repeat as a refrain in each stanza. The stress on theme goes parallel in these refrains.

Wind, Water, Stone – Octavio Paz’s

Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,
stone’s a cup of water,
water escapes and is wind.
Stone, wind, water.

There is a repeated set of words used as the refrain in each quatrain of the poem. However, the words appear in a different order in each occurrence of the refrain. The last line of first stanza ‘water, wind, stone’ and the last line of next stanza ‘stone, wind, water’ come in different sequence according to the stress theme.

Ballade Of Midsummer days and Night – Ernest Henley

Midsummer days! Midsummer days!
The dusk grows vast; in a purple haze,
While the West from a rapture of sunset rights,
Faint stars their exquisite lamps upraise–
Midsummer nights! O midsummer nights!

The wood’s green heart is a nest of dreams,
The lush grass thickens and springs and sways,
The rathe wheat rustles, the landscape gleams–
Midsummer days! Midsummer days!
In the stilly fields, in the stilly ways,
All secret shadows and mystic lights,
Late lovers murmur and linger and gaze–
Midsummer nights! O midsummer nights

Here is another example of the double refrain. Above are only two stanzas of the poem. In them, you can found that there are refrains in ‘Midsummer days’ and ‘Midsummer nights’, both come twice in each stanza. These are not only for lyrics but also for the stress on days and nights.

September – Yeats

For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave…

And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Here the 2nd and 3rd lines of both stanzas function as a refrain. The use of the refrain helps in a spiteful and accusatory tone. The lines stress on the speaker’s belief that ‘John O’ leary embodied a nationalism in his political actions that now rests solely within the poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night – Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This famous poem has two refrains, one is in the first line and the second comes in the third line of each stanza. These refrains not only make the poem more musical but also catchy and easy to remember. This line refers to the anger and pain at one’s death.

A Negro Love Song  – Paul  Laurence

Seen my lady home las’ night,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
An’ a smile go flittin’ by —
Jump back, honey, jump back.

In the above lines, the refraining line comes thrice in the stanza. The line is ‘Jump back, honey, jump back.’ It is the source of rhythm and stressing on the jumping when you are happy. This refrain appears many times in the whole poem emphasizing the feeling or expression of love at first sight.