What are two devices of repetition in "The Song of Slaves in the Desert" by John Greenleaf Whittier?

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Song of Slaves in the Desert," John Greenleaf Whittier describes a group of slaves traveling through the desert.  As they trudge across the sand, they sing and pray their God, Rubee.

Whittier uses several different forms of repetition, perhaps in an attempt to reproduce the rhythmic pulse of the slaves' song.

One form of repetition is called anaphora; this is the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases or verses.  Some examples in this poem are:

a) "Lord of peoples, lord of lands";

b) "We were like the leaves and sand, / We were many."

c) "We are weak...

We are blind...

We are fools."


Another type of repetition is a refrain, a phrase that is repeated at regular intervals throughout the poem.  The refrain of this poem is "Where are we going, Rubee?"  After it is introduced in the poem's second line, it is repeated every 8th line of the poem.

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