Anaphora & Epiphora

No, these are not Greek lovers.  But they ARE Greek words.  Anaphora and Epiphora are two rhetorical devices that are often used in literary works and song lyrics.  You need not worry so much about remembering the names, as long as you learn what these techniques can do to help in your songwriting.

Anaphora is possibly more common in songwriting than in poetry.  As a technique, anaphora repeats a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, thereby lending them emphasis.

Here’s a popular example from the classic Gershwin song, I’ve Got Rhythm.

I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man
Who could ask for anything more?
I’ve got daisies in green pastures
I’ve got my man
Who could ask for anything more?

And another example from Charles Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Ephiphora (also called, Epistrophe), is simply the counterpart to anaphora.  It is the repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive phrases, clauses or sentences, placing the emphasis on the last word in a phrase or sentence.

Examples that you’ve probably heard before:

“…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  – Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child—  The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)

Both Anaphora and Epiphora can be quite effective techniques to provide special emphasis and memorable  hooks in your lyrics.  To stretch your boundaries and continue growing your lyric writing skills, I would encourage you to try applying one of these two techniques in your next song.  Have fun.

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