The word “anaphora” is derived from the Greek word “ἀναφορά” ("carrying back").

The term is widely used in rhetoric and literary criticism.

What does anaphora mean?

Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of the same word or a sequense of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses.

This device:

  • emphasizes the main idea or a significant image;

  • sharpens the rhythm to make a verse easy to perceive and learn by heart;

  • conveys emotions.

In a poem anaphora looks like self-affirmation phrases, which you can find in books on self-improvement. Poets use it to convince their readers that a thought is important.

The literary device can be used in both prose and verse.

Usage of this poetic device

This poetic technique is very common in literature.  It can be seen in hundreds of classic poems.

Anaphora at the beginning of some stanzas

I watched thee when the foe was at our side,

Ready to strike at him - or thee and me,

Were safety hopeless - rather than divide

Aught with one loved save love and liberty.

 

I watched thee on the breakers, when the rock,

Received our prow, and all was storm and fear,

And bade thee cling to me through every shock;

This arm would be thy bark, or breast thy bier.

 

I watched thee when the fever glazed thine eyes,

Yielding my couch and stretched me on the ground

When overworn with watching, ne’er to rise

From thence if thou an early grave hadst found.

(“Love and Death”, George Gordon Byron)

 

Anaphora at the beginning of some lines

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;

Mock on, mock on; 'tis all in vain!

You throw the sand against the wind,

And the wind blows it back again.

(“Mock on…” by William Blake)

 

As the sunrise to the night,

As the north wind to the clouds,

As the earthquake's fiery flight,

Ruining mountain solitudes,

Everlasting Italy,

Be those hopes and fears on thee.

(“To Italy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

 

The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around:

It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,

Like noises in a swound!

(“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

 

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It is worth noting that anaphora is a figure of speech that involves repetition along with epiphora, epistrophe, palilogia etc.

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