What is Refrain in Poetry

Refrain in poetry is a repeated part of a poem that appears either at the end of a stanza or between two stanzas. It can be a verse, a line, a set or a group of lines.  Refrains repeat at regular intervals in different stanzas. Refrain in poetry contributes to the rhyme of a poem. Although refrain is defined as the repetition of a word or phrase, it may involve a minor change in wording. 

Refrain in poetry is also known as the chorus. Fixed form of poetic structures such as villanelle, virelay, and sestina uses refrain.

In music, there are two parts of refrains: the lyrics of the song, and the music. However, in poetry, there is only one form of refrain – the repetition of the words and phrases. 

Examples of Refrain in Poetry

“The Uncut Stone” by Sebastian Barker

“Sunsets blazing out of my head,
 Burnt-out midnights moving on,
 Nothing remains of the life I led,
 Clean as the wind-swept sky, I’m gone.
 Nobody loses, nobody gains
 A drop of water in a thousand springs.
 Not a trace of my life, not a trace remains.
 I am the voice of the ancient things.
 I am the audience nobody sings.

 I come from the valley of the uncut stone,
 A spark from the furnace in my father’s eye.
 I belong with the muscles of the dancing bone
 In the womb of my mother in her ecstasy.
 Nobody noticed, nobody saw
 What being (a babe in the wilderness) brings:
 The more I advance, the more I withdraw.
 I am the voice of ancient things.
 I am the audience nobody sings…”

What is Refrain in Poetry

“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe

“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…”

“Do not go gentle into that good night” by 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.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Summary:

  • In poetry, refrain refers to a repeated verse, a line, a set or a group of lines that appears either at the end of a stanza or between two stanzas.
  • Refrains contribute to the rhyme of a poem.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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