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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A refrain may serve one of several purposes. It is often used to reinforce an important thought, idea or phrase through repetition. Think of the refrain of songs.

Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, Glory, hallelujah. His truth is marching on.

A refrain may also help to establish the rhythmic pattern or mark the end of each stanza of a piece. In Robert Frost's poem The Pasture, the refrain is the last line of each stanza.

I'm going to clean the pasture spring;

I'll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear away, I may):

I shan't be gone long. - You come too.


I'm going out to fetch the little calf

That's standing by the mother. It's so young,

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I shan't be gone long. - You come too.

Refrains may also simply be nonsense syllables used to fill out a metric pattern or as a break in the story. Think of all the Christmas carols that use meaningless syllables as part of the lyrics.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly!

Fa la la la la, la la la la.

vmoriarity eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Refrain has two main purposes.  Refrain is used to create rhythm and meter in a piece as well as emphasize a specific thought or idea.

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