Definitions

# Infinite-loop motif

The infinite-loop motif is the concept, typically in a song, picture, or story, of the same content being repeated (precisely repeated, and endlessly repeated) at the point that would in most works be the end of that content. (This is in contrast with songs that have a logical, even if seldom-reached, ending point, as with 99 Bottles of Beer.)

There are two main types of infinite loops: infinite cycles, and infinite recursion.

An example of an infinite cycle can be found in the children's song "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt". The lyrics and melody don't come to a natural stopping point; those who teach it carry it on by resuming at the start, and the effect is the same as an infinite loop in computing.

One of the most common examples of an infinite recursion is a story. The words vary from telling to telling, but it goes something like this:

It was a dark and stormy night. The children huddled around the old man's chair. "Tell us a story!" they pleaded. "All right," said the old man, and so he began.
"It was a dark and stormy night. The children huddled around the old man's chair. 'Tell us a story!' they pleaded. 'All right,' said the old man, and so he began.
''"'It was a dark and stormy night...

Another example of the infinite-loop motif is available in the self-referential song "The Song That Never Ends".

In fiction, Eric Rücker Eddison's fantasy novel The Worm Ouroboros implies the same motif simply by having the final situation match the initial one, and having the first paragraph of the physical document precisely duplicated as the final paragraph. It has been published with cover art depicting an Ouroboros, in another evocation of the motif.

James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake starts in mid-sentence: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs". The beginning of this sentence is found in the novel's last words: "A way a lone a last a loved a long the". Thus, this novel is another example of infinite loop.

The works of M. C. Escher contain many variations of both infinite cycles and infinite recursion.

An excellent example is the very popular children's song There's a Hole in My Bucket.

The opening lyrics are as follows (the most common mention Henry and Liza):

`   Henry: There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.`
`   Liza: Well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, well fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it`
`   Henry: With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza, with what shall I fix it dear Liza, with what?`
`   Liza: With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, with straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with straw.`

This goes on in the same format with different lines:

`   But the straw is too long.`
`   Then cut it.`
`   With what shall I cut it?`
`   With an axe`

`   But the axe is too dull.`
`   Well sharpen it`
`   How shall I sharpen it`
`   With the stone`

`   But the stone is too dry`
`   Then whet it`
`   With what shall I whet it?`
`   With the water`

`   But I have no water`
`   Then get some`
`   With what shall I get it?`
`   With the bucket`

`   But there's a hole in the bucket!`