The moment you see epistrophes in action, you’ll recognize them. They can drive a certain point home, whether someone’s delivering a speech, relaying prose, or catching your ear with their lyricism.
Let’s get right into some epistrophe examples and see if you might develop an affinity for using this rhetorical device in your writing.
Sometimes, there’s no better way to stir up the crowd than with a dash of repetition. Check out these epistrophes from famous speeches:
For no government is better than the men who compose it, and I want the best, and we need the best, and we deserve the best. - John F. Kennedy
And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. - Abraham Lincoln
There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. - Lyndon Johnson
There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. - Bill Clinton
The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divides us has come. - Nelson Mandela
... every child has a dream about where they can go or what they can become. Whether that dream is to invent something, start something, build something, or create something, it all starts with the basic skills and confidence that only a good education can provide. - Mitt Romney
Literature draws some of its dramatic appeal from epistrophes. Poetry, in particular, lends itself well to the rhythmic flow of an epistrophe. Let’s take a look at a couple examples:
If you had known the virtue of the ring,
Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
Or your own honour to contain the ring,
You would not then have parted with the ring.
- The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
The moth and the fish eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.
- Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
When I was a child,
I spoke as a child,
I understood as a child,
I thought as a child.
- Corinthians 13:11
Then I'll be all aroun' in the dark. I'll be ever’where—wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there… An' when our folk eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build—why, I'll be there.
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
The big sycamore by the creek was gone. The willow tangle was gone. The little enclave of untrodden bluegrass was gone. The clump of dogwood on the little rise across the creek—now that, too, was gone.
- Flood: A Romance of Our Time, Robert Penn Warren
Where affections bear rule, their reason is subdued, honesty is subdued, good will is subdued, and all things else that withstand evil, for ever are subdued.
-The Art of Rhetoric, Thomas Wilson
Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid, each cycle of the wave is valid, each cycle of a relationship is valid.
-Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Just like a catchy speech, lines delivered in some of our favorite movies, TV shows or songs have made a mark due to this repetitious zeal. Here are a few epistrophe examples from popular moments in entertainment:
A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!
- Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003
Shel Turtlestein was many things, but above all he was my friend. When I didn’t get a date with Fiona Gunderson, Shel was there. When I didn’t get to play the part of Tevye, Shel was there. And when a raccoon broke into my room, unfortunately, Shel was there.
-Manny Delgado (eulogy for his turtle), Modern Family (Season 1, Episode 17, 2009)
Don't you ever talk about my friends! You don't know any of my friends. You don't look at any of my friends. And you certainly wouldn't condescend to speak to any of my friends.
- John Bender, The Breakfast Club, 1985
And close your eyes, child, and listen to what I'll tell you.
Follow in the darkest night the sounds that may impel you.
And the song that I am singing may disturb or serve to quell you.
- Follow, Jerry Merrick
Cause if you liked it then you should've put a ring on it.
If you liked it then you should've put a ring on it.
Don't be mad once you see that he want it.
If you liked it then you should've put a ring on it.
-Single Ladies, Beyoncé
I'm a Pepper, he's a Pepper, she's a Pepper, we're a Pepper. Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too? Dr. Pepper.
- Advertising jingle for Dr. Pepper
There’s a certain element of lyricism to epistophes. They can catch people’s attention in a speech. The audience will know the speaker is trying to drive a very clear point home.
Epistrophes can also flit about poetry, providing an easy rhyme and reason, as in Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. As you continue to dabble in various forms of colorful expression, we hope you’ll enjoy these descriptive poem examples and see which literary tool you’d like to use next!