What Are Some Examples of Refrain in Poetry?

Some examples of refrain in poetry include the lines "jump back, honey, jump back" in "A Negro Love Song" by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and "return and return again" in James Laughlin's "O Best of All Nights, Return and Return Again." Both of these lines recur at regular intervals within the poems. Refrains are often repeated at the end of each stanza, or else between stanzas as a kind of chorus.

Refrains can be considerably longer than the single lines used by Dunbar and Laughlin. In "Mariana," for instance, Alfred Lord Tennyson uses the four-line refrain "She only said, 'My life is dreary, / He cometh not,' she said; / She said, 'I am aweary, aweary, / I wish that I were dead!'" This refrain is repeated, sometimes with slight adaptations, between every eight-line stanza of the poem and then again at the end for a total of seven repetitions.

Tennyson's refrain in this poem has been likened to an incantation, the regularity of which enhances the poem's impression of enchantment. It also underscores Mariana's mindset, a despondency that she is trapped by. Just like the repetition of the refrain, her forlorn consciousness keeps returning to the same negative thought patterns of self-pity.