Tin Pan Alley Epanalepsis
by Alex Segal
Dictionaries of literary terms list many terms which are rarely encountered outside dictionaries of literary terms. An example is the term epanalepsis. An example of epanalepsis is: “Dictionaries of literary terms list many terms which are rarely encountered outside dictionaries of literary terms”.
Epanalepsis refers to a sentence, a clause, or a line of verse which has at or towards its beginning a word or a string of words that is repeated (in a form that need not be identical) at or towards its end. These iterations surround other words. I use the term – as it often is used – to embrace what is sometimes called inclusio, which pertains to lengthier sequences: a paragraph, perhaps a short story, at least a short one; a stanza, a poem. So my first two paragraphs are epanalepses.
The uncommon word refers to what is not uncommon. It is quite common in the kind of text I discuss here: the Tin Pan Alley song lyric. But first some general reflections.
Positing a clearcut boundary is difficult. On occasion I speak of quasi-epanalepsis – without positing a clear boundary between it and epanalepsis. Borderline cases include: Short phrases without a verb, for example, “time after time” and “flesh of my flesh”; Short phrases with a verb but not a finite verb: “People meeting people”; A part of a sentence that contains a clause but is not itself a clause and cannot stand as a sentence: “People who need people”; Homophone cases: “Rites and traditions sometimes conflict with human rights”; Similar sounding antonyms: “Common sense is quite uncommon”; Similar sounding words with different but not opposite meanings: “Cemetery put in of course on account of the symmetry”; Words similar in meaning but not sound: “The ocean is my love and that is why you will always find me standing near the sea”.
Sometimes too plain to be a figure of speech (“It is lucky you found it”, “Debt is a trap, especially student debt”), epanalepsis is less plain if tied to other verbal patterning – for example, antimetabole: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”; or epanalepsis within epanalepsis: “For the most part hate engenders hate – for the most part”. Epanalepsis which involves polyptoton (repetition of different words that are derived from the same root) and which frames anadiplosis (a word at or toward the end of a phrase or clause or sentence that occurs at or towards the beginning of the next), anadiplosis that also involves polyptoton, is in the first two lines of the following verse sentence:
Let ringing timbrels so his honour sound,
Let sounding cymbals so his glory ring,
That in their tunes such melody be found,
As fits the pomp of most triumphant king.
(Psalm 150, Mary Sidney Herbert)
The contrast between epanalepsis which is inclusio and that which is not is loosely linked to a contrast between whole-work epanalepsis (usually inclusio) and part-work epanalepsis (often not inclusio). Most cases of whole-work epanalepsis are what I call compound epanalepsis: they span more than one sentence or a single sentence that is divisible (through repunctuation) into more than one: “The King is dead, long live the King” and “No pain she felt: I am sure she felt no pain”. Non-compound epanalepsis is a single sentence that cannot be thus divided or a single clause: “A minimum wage that is not a liveable wage will never be a minimum wage”; “Debt is a trap, especially student debt”; “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds”.
In what I call intrinsic epanalepsis, omitting one iteration of the repeated words yields ungrammatical expression and/or alters the propositional meaning. So “The King is dead, long live the King” is intrinsic epanalepsis. Non-intrinsic epanalepsis allows such omission: “I love you, I adore you, I love you” becomes “I love you, I adore you”; “No one is more qualified than she is – no one” becomes “No one is more qualified than she is”; “Just in time, I found you just in time” – “I found you just in time”.
So far most of my sentence examples are what I call identical epanalepses: their repeated words are the same with respect to meaning and referent, part of speech, mood, and quotation status. “The King is dead, long live the King” is non-identical: the first “the King”, in a declarative clause, refers to the previous monarch; the second, in an exclamatory clause, refers to the current monarch. Non-identical epanalepses are diverse: “The inevitable is no less a shock just because it is inevitable” (noun phrase vs. adjective); “Next time there won’t be a next time” (adverbial phrase vs. noun phrase); “Put out the light, and then put out the light” (literal vs. metaphorical); “In the run-up to Christmas, we will publicly disembowel anyone heard using the phrase ‘in the run-up to Christmas’ ” (direct speech vs. quotation).
Although this diversity may seem too large for a single term, appreciating a work’s diverse epanalepses requires, I think, the general term to designate what they share. And such appreciation is required for some Tin Pan Alley lyrics. I present the lyrics as they appear in publications such as Reading Lyrics, edited by R. Gottlieb and R. Kimball (Random House, 2000), Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, edited by R. Kimball and L. Emmett (Knopf, 2001), and Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer, edited by R. Kimball, B. Day, M. Kreuger and E. Davis (Knopf, 2009). But for the sake of readability, I sometimes introduce stanza breaks not found in these publications or the original sheet music. Reflecting performance practice, I treat the refrain as in itself a complete text. Here is the refrain of Irving Berlin’s “Remember” (1925) – without its two verses and with stanza breaks that I’ve inserted:
Remember the night,
The night you said,
“I love you”,
Remember you vowed
By all the stars
Remember we found a lonely spot
And after I learned to care a lot
You promised that you’d forget me not,
But you forgot to remember.
Epanalepsis here is conspicuous epanalepsis. Each of the lyric’s three stanza-like sentences begins and ends with “remember”, a word with the idea of repetition built into it, and the only word here with more than two syllables. The first five of its six occurrences are main verbs (in a lyric with only six main verbs: the other finite verbs are in subordinate clauses), main verbs tied to the lyric’s dominant interrogative mood. The three stanza-length epanalepses generate three longer epanalepses – one spanning the whole lyric; another, the first two sentences; a third, the last two sentences. The epanalepses are tied to other verbal patterning: anaphora – consecutive sentences begin with the same word; epistrophe – consecutive sentences end with the same word; anadiplosis – each of the first and second sentences ends with the word that begins the next. And in the first epanalepsis is another anadiplosis: the phrase “the night” ends one phrase and begins the next. The final stanza epanaleptic repetition is also a polyptoton. For the first “remember” is a finite verb; the second, part of an infinitive. And the third stanza contains a different kind of polyptoton, with the words “forget” and “forgot”; and the appearance of these antonyms of “remember” produces antithesis.
In the first two stanzas is epanalepsis within epanalepsis. Besides beginning and ending with the word “remember”, each contains a sentence-like sequence that begins and ends with “you”: “you said / ‘I love you’”; “you vowed / By all the stars / Above you”. These intrinsic epanalepses are linked by similar meanings and multi-syllable rhyme, albeit the second is identical epanalepsis, the first non-identical: a direct-speech “you” at the beginning refers to the lyric’s addressee, a quoted-speech “you” at the end refers to the lyric’s speaker.
Set to the same melody, the first two sentence-epanalepses form prosodically identical stanzas. That each lacks end rhyme perhaps highlights the cross-stanza rhyme – of the first stanza’s last two lines with the second’s last two lines. In the case of each of these sentences, omitting the second occurrence of “remember” leaves words that constitute a coherent sentence and retain the meaning they had before the omission. In each, the end question mark seems to pertain to the whole sentence. But it perhaps pertains more to the sentence’s last word than to the preceding clause, which I think oscillates between interrogative and (gently) imperative mood. If the two occurrences of “remember” differ, a difference suggested by melodic difference, then omitting the second occurrence involves some loss of conceptual meaning. These epanalepses seem borderline between intrinsic and non-intrinsic and between identical and non-identical.
The third sentence-long epanalepsis contrasts with the others. It is set to a different melody, and is in a prosodically-distinct stanza with far more end rhyme, but with only one of its lines rhyming with a line in the previous stanzas, rhyming rendered inconspicuous by prosodic and melodic change. The stanza contains the statement “You promised that you’d forget me not”, which, though similar in meaning to the internal epanalepses in the first two stanzas, is not an epanalepsis: the word “not” breaks the pattern. Although the three stanza-length epanalepses are compound, the third stanza epanalepsis is so in a different way, being divisible into sentences that clearly differ in mood (interrogative vs. declarative), sentences with antonymic main verbs: “remember” and “forgot”. The earlier epanalepses divide into sentences with the same main verb: “remember”.
Moreover, the third sentence-long epanalepsis is a clearcut case of intrinsic epanalepsis (neither of its occurrences of “remember” can be omitted) and of non-identical epanalepsis, its occurrences of “remember” being quite different – as we noted earlier in noting the polyptoton. Its first “remember” is like the first “remember” in each of the previous sentences – a finite verb in an interrogative or imperative clause; its second “remember” is part of an infinitive verb in a declarative clause. And, connected to “remember” becoming an infinitive, this final clause has the only main verb which is other than “remember” – and this verb (“forgot”) is not just other but opposite.
Although I have suggested that the first two sentences may be borderline with respect to some categories, relative to the third they seem identical and non-intrinsic. So from the first two sentences to the last (and marking the last from within) is a swerve from interrogative to declarative mood; and from identical and non-intrinsic epanalepsis to non-identical and intrinsic epanalepsis.
Breaking the established pattern, this swerve underlines the twist expressed in the final clause, “But you forgot to remember” – a quasi-paradox which hints at the implicit, unspoken paradoxical exhortatory subtext: “Remember that you did not remember!” The shift towards what is less rhetorically emphatic (from non-intrinsic to intrinsic epanalepsis; from interrogative to declarative mood) yields a more understated, more inward, perhaps more telling testimony to the heart break.
Epanaleptic variety informs another Irving Berlin Lyric: “(Just One Way to Say) I Love You” (1949):
I love you, I love you –
There’s no other way,
Just one way to say
I love you.
I love you, I love you,
And try as I may,
That’s all I can say –
I love you.
Much more could be said
If I thought with my head,
But I only can think with my heart.
I love you, I love you
And yearn for the day,
The day when you’ll say
I love you.
This song has the typical AABA Tin Pan Alley melodic structure – four eight bar phrases, the first two and the fourth melodically similar, and the third contrasting. The structure is reflected in the lyric. The three A section stanzas share a rhyme scheme and meter pattern that are not shared by the B section stanza; all have the same three words (“I love you”) making up the first and fourth lines and the same word (“say”) at the end of the third line. And each of these three stanzas, each consisting of a single sentence, is an epanalepsis beginning and ending with “I love you”.
These epanalepses generate three others – one of which spans the whole lyric, so again we find both whole-work and part-work epanalepsis. And again there is intertwining with other figures of speech: anadiplosis – the first sentence ends with the three words that begin the second sentence; epizeuxis – the beginning “I love you” in each epanalepsis is repeated (“I love you, I love you”); antimetabole – in the first sentence, beginning and end repetition frames two occurrences of “way”; in the fourth, two occurrences of “day”.
The apparently similar epanaleptic stanzas are varied. Perry Como differentiates the first two from the last. After singing the whole lyric verbatim, he sings it again, omitting the first line of each of the first two stanzas – which become: “There’s no other way, / Just one way to say / I love you”; “And try as I may, / That’s all I can say – / I love you”. The last stanza, which he does not alter, is more resistant to this omission.
The relative ease with which the first line of each of the first two stanzas can be dropped does not betoken non-intrinsic epanalepsis. For this dropping involves meaning loss, as these lines is each at least to some extent experienced as a declaration of love, a declaration occurring nowhere else in the stanza. But the second stanza is at least close to non-intrinsic epanalepsis. For it can lose its last line – it becomes “I love you, I love you, / And try as I may, / That’s all I can say” – with no or very little loss of conceptual content. So here is another contrast between these epanalepses.
All three of these stanzas are non-identical epanalepses. For in each the opening line is heard, at least at first, as direct speech whereas the last line is some kind of quotation, or something similar to a quotation. If the lyric were punctuated conventionally, then quotation marks would enclose the last line of the last stanza – to indicate that it quotes words that the speaker hopes the addressee will utter. And it would be reasonable, if not essential, for quotation marks to indicate that the last line of the second stanza is a quotation of words uttered by the speaker him or herself; and for the last line of the first stanza to be in italics – to indicate that the line “quotes” a meaning rather than the words used to express it. All the epanalepses here are non-identical but they are so in diverse ways. The diversity beneath a surface uniformity perhaps testifies to a push to break free from the repetition that the lyric both bemoans (at least at some level) and affirms.
The intersecting figures make for pattern, symmetry, even charm. But they also create a sense of constriction, the constriction that can generate the yearning to escape repetition. This yearning finds some release in a shift at the point where the weight of repetition generated by the figures of speech is greatest – and where the expression of the yearning to break with one type of repetition gives way to the expressed yearning for reciprocity, another kind of repetition. The shift is epanaleptic: the final occurrence of the phrase “I love you” – at the end of the final sentence – is the only one that, on standard punctuation conventions, requires quotation marks, and the only one that opens to the voice of the addressee.
Although epanaleptic intricacy and diversity contributes to these lyrics, a simpler epanalepsis is tied to the emotional force of an even finer Irving Berlin song – “What’ll I do?” (1924):
What’ll I do
When you are far away
And I am blue,
What’ll I do?
What’ll I do
When I am wondering who
Is kissing you,
What’ll I do?
What’ll I do
With just a photograph
To tell my troubles to,
When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true,
What’ll I do?
Here again are three sentence-length stanza-like epanalepses, each reiterating the one expression – in this case “What’ll I do?” All are compound epanalepses, though the third, which is much longer than the others, divides up more readily. Replacing a comma with a question mark – and thereby introducing a sentence division – is possible in each sentence but is easiest after the word “to” in the third sentence. And whereas each of the first two divides into a complex sentence and a simple sentence, the third divides into two complex sentences.
But in other ways, this lyric’s obvious epanalepses are relatively unvaried. The iterations of the repeated expression, the only main clauses, are the same in terms of meaning, grammar, mood and quotation status. And the “What’ll I Do?” epanalepsis is not only straightforwardly identical but straightforwardly non-intrinsic. It can be entirely eliminated:
When you are far away
And I am blue;
When I am wondering who
Is kissing you;
With just a photograph
To tell my troubles to;
When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true –
What’ll I do?
Not required for propositional meaning, the lyric’s obvious epanaleptic iterations, which are the lyric’s only main clauses, are all the more emotionally insistent, particularly given how identical they are. Here they evoke being at a loss to know what to do, thereby enacting their meaning. That the identical question begins and ends the lyric, and begins and ends each stanza, suggests that at issue is a question that cannot be answered. So epanaleptic repetition, redundant in terms of propositional meaning, is nevertheless deeply meaningful.
An inconspicuous epanalepsis is the line “To tell my troubles to”. In prose it would probably not count as an epanalepsis, and a prose epanalepsis that repeats “to”, a word which lacks semantic weight and phonetic character, would probably not count as a figure of speech: “To relax I need you to talk to”. But in this lyric “To tell my troubles to”, as a line of verse, is both epanalepsis and figure, all the more so because it rhymes with the last word (“do”) of the repeated expression in the dominant epanalepses, as well as with the only other end rhyme: “blue”, “who”, “you”, and “true”. It occurs as the last part of what, we have seen, can be regarded as a sentence – if the comma after “to” were replaced by a question mark; an end of sentence effect reinforced by its ending what, in the context of talking about melody, is referred to as the bridge. Although a preposition ending a sentence is not ungrammatical, it can create a “left up in the air” effect, which here goes with the sense of a loss of one’s bearings. And there is a slight sense of losing one’s bearings in the fact that these two occurrences of “to” are quite different – the first is part of an infinitive verb, the second is a preposition – yet the difference in meaning does not generate a sense of wordplay or wit.
So far the lyrics considered have involved both whole work and part work epanalepsis. I now consider two lyrics in which the only clearcut epanalepsis is whole work. Here is Edward Heyman’s “Love Letters” (1945; music by Victor Young):
Love letters straight from your heart
Keep us so near while apart.
I’m not alone in the night,
When I can have all the love you write.
I memorize every line;
I kiss the name that you sign.
And, darling, then I read again right from the start,
Love letters straight from your heart.
This lyric displays the circularity and continuity that Mark Forsyth (in The Elements of Eloquence, Icon Books, 2013) links to the “best” epanalepsis. With no change in meaning, the phrase “Love letters straight from your heart” moves from the first line of the opening stanza to the last line of the closing stanza, and moves also from a sentence beginning to a sentence end. Each of the two stanzas has the same length and same rhyme scheme. The lyric’s beginning rhyme sound, which contrasts with the assonant middle rhymes, returns at the end.
A kind of circle is in the interflow of form and content. The last line’s returning us to the first enacts the circle that the lyric describes: reading a letter to its end, then rereading it from the start – a circle suggested also by the internal rhyme “then I read again”. And there are other circles. The letters convey love from their sender to their addressee, who – through the love letter that is the song – returns this love (the word “Darling” toward the lyric’s end is the beginning of the letters). That what is reread is already remembered constitutes a circle within a circle, a doubling of doubling, suggested by the whole-lyric epanalepsis embracing a quasi-epanalepsis: the first stanza’s first and last phrases – “love letters”; “all the love you write” – refer to one thing. As the lines containing these phrases enclose two lines each evoking nearness, chiasmus emphasises circularity.
Repeatedly rereading what is already memorised is a beautiful circle here, with no hint of obsessive compulsiveness, no sense of being caught in a bind. Rather different is the repetition in another short lyric where the only epanalepsis is whole lyric epanalepsis: Sammy Cahn’s “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (1944; music by Jule Styne):
I fall in love too easily,
I fall in love too fast.
I fall in love too terribly hard
For love to ever last.
My heart should be well-schooled
’Cause I’ve been fooled in the past.
And still I fall in love too easily,
I fall in love too fast.
Repetition weighs heavily here. In “Love Letters” the epanaleptic repetition is a single six-word phrase in a single line. In this slightly shorter lyric, it comprises two independent clauses, each of six words, across two lines – or, at the end, nearly two lines. Each clause begins with the same five words, “I fall in love too …” – as does the third clause. The first clause suggests what happens often, repeatedly. The last iteration of the repeated clauses is preceded by “And still”, indicating the continuance, the repetition, of behaviour already associated with repetition, and already referred to in repeated expression. Repetition is piled upon repetition.
The first two clauses are similar in meaning: what happens easily often happens fast. But tension ensues: the third clause with the same beginning ends with the word “hard”, which can mean difficult, the opposite of easy. Although here it means with great force (the paradox, such as it is, is merely verbal), the tension has an effect: not the wit and mastery sometimes arising from verbal paradox; more of a sense of the difficult-to-control overflow, here carrying a sense of burden and bewilderment, associated with great force. The effect intensifies when paradox becomes more than merely verbal: a surprising, painful truth is in the way that first stanza’s end links great force to transience. Whereas in “Love Letters” epanalepsis contributes to a lyric that takes flight, here circularity and continuity are like a prison.
Tin Pan Alley epanalepsis comes into its own wedded to certain themes – for example, the Love Everlasting theme, which can be found in “For You, For Me, For Evermore” (1936-37), Ira Gershwin’s last lyric for the music of his brother George:
For you, for me, for evermore,
It’s bound to be for evermore.
It’s plain to see,
We found by finding each other
The love we waited for.
I’m yours, you’re mine, and in our hearts
The happy ending starts.
What a lovely world this world will be,
With a world of love in store
For you, for me, for evermore.
Fitting the theme of enduring, reciprocal love is the circularity, continuity and symmetry of the verbal patterning. The lyric, of two equal-length stanzas, beginning and ending with the same rhyme, is an identical epanalepsis. The first iteration of the repeated expression is the first line of the first stanza; the second iteration, the last line of the second stanza, the last stanza. The repeated expression, which moves not only from the lyric’s beginning to its end but also from beginning place in a sentence to end place, is anaphoric: three consecutive phrases all begin with the word “for”. Its first iteration is part of an epistrophe, the first of a pair of lines each ending with “for evermore”. And this last phrase is a piece of poetic diction with rhyming first and last syllables. There are two chiasmic quasi-epanalepses. In the consecutive lines “What a lovely world this world will be, / With a world of love in store”, the word “lovely” toward the beginning and the similar word “love” towards its end frame three occurrences of the word “world”. At the beginning of the second stanza, the string of words “I’m yours, you’re mine” has first and last syllables which echo each other, which each contain a pronoun that refers to the speaker, and which frame a pair of similar sounding expressions (“yours”, “you’re”), each of which refers to the addressee. Moreover, in terms of meaning, this four-syllable quasi-epanalepsis, which expresses the love’s reciprocity, echoes the four words that begin the first stanza, “For you, for me”, and that are part of the repeated expression of the whole-lyric epanalepsis.
The grandeur generated by the verbal patterning so far considered is offset by the wit and wordplay of other figures of speech: polyptoton in “We found by finding each other”; paradox in “the happy ending starts”; and antanaclasis in the chiasmus, “What a lovely world this world will be, / With a world of love in store” (the sense of the third occurrence of the word “world” differs from that of the other occurrences). And there is antanaclasis also in the grandest line, “For you, for me, for evermore”: the word “for” shows who is to have something in its first two occurrences but length of time in its third occurrence – in the phrase “for evermore”, a phrase emphasised not only by anaphora, epistrophe, epanalepsis, internal rhyme, but also by antanaclasis.
This antanaclasis is underscored by the intersection of the whole-lyric epanalepsis with a less obvious epanalepsis. The first stanza, the lyric’s first half, begins and ends with “for”. The “For” that is the lyric’s first word is both the first iteration of the single-stanza epanalepsis’s repeated word and part of the first iteration of the whole-lyric epanalepsis’s repetition. The first-stanza epanalepsis is a non-identical epanalepsis: the meanings of the beginning “for” and the end “for” differ. Although this difference is barely noticeable – what is repeated is a single monosyllabic preposition that in itself conveys little meaning – it subtly underscores the antanaclasis in the repeated expression of the whole-lyric epanalepsis, antanaclasis the wit of which offsets epanaleptic monumentality.
Also subtle is the unfolding of the epanalepsis. Its being identical, with epanaleptic repetitions of the same meaning, is tied to its circularity. But this meaning is fully explicit only at the end. For all their grandeur, the words “For you, for me, for evermore” do not express a complete thought, do not constitute a sentence. And because the pronoun “it”, the first sentence’s grammatical subject, has no noun antecedent, the sentence does not state or even imply what is “For you, for me, for evermore”. Only at the end of the second sentence, which is the end of the lyric’s first half and of the other epanalepsis, is it implied that the referent is “the love we waited for”; and only in the lyric’s final sentence is it explicit that the referent is “a world of love in store”. Meaning is withheld, kept “in store”. The form of the lyric mimics, enacts, meaning – an enactment tied to epanalepsis.
Enactment occurs in another love-everlasting lyric – Sammy Cahn’s “Day by Day” (1945; music by Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston):
Day by day
I’m falling more in love with you,
And day by day
My love seems to grow.
There isn’t any end to my devotion;
It’s deeper, dear, by far than any ocean.
I find that day by day
You’re making all my dreams come true.
So come what may
I want you to know –
I’m yours alone
And I’m in love to stay
As we go through the years
Day by day.
Beginning and ending with the phrase “day by day”, the whole lyric is an epanalepsis. And there is a quasi-epanalepsis: the phrase “day by day” occurs close to the beginning of the second stanza and at its end. The repeated phrase – “day by day” – itself involves repetition. So we have repetition of repetition. And the phrase, inasmuch as it introduces the lyric’s first two clauses, occurs in another figure of speech, anaphora. These figures of speech intersect. For in both the whole lyric epanalepsis and the anaphora, the first phrase is the iteration of “Day by day” that begins the lyric.
The second “day by day” is preceded by “And”. The phrase’s third iteration, at the end of the first line of the second stanza, introduces a clause – so a hint of anaphora remains. But the clause in question is also introduced by another clause (“I find …”) plus the conjunction “that”. So the third iteration of the phrase seems further than the earlier iterations from the beginning of an utterance. And at its fourth and final iteration, at the very end of the lyric – and only there – the phrase simply ends a clause. The repeated phrase’s shift from utterance beginning to utterance end mimics the sense of a passage through life – the passage which is what the lyric is about.
There is also a meaning shift, antanaclasis. The lyric’s first two iterations of “day by day”, those most tied to anaphora, both evoke the idea “more and more as each day passes” – to cite one definition of the phrase. The third iteration is balanced fairly evenly between this definition and another definition – “everyday”. But in the fourth and final iteration, the “more and more” meaning is absent. Evoked rather is something like “one day at a time”. So the epanalepsis is non-identical. The meaning shift, pertaining to connotations rather than denotations, is subtle. But it does evoke a kind of paradox – it is as if living in the present, living day to day, enables a transcendence of the present, the attaining of what is enduring, of meaning.
Epanalepsis lends itself also to the Tin Pan Alley theme I call Love Obsession. Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” (1932) is a famous example:
Night and day you are the one,
Only you beneath the moon and under the sun.
Whether near to me or far
It’s no matter, darling, where you are,
I think of you, night and day.
Day and night, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go?
In the roaring traffic’s boom,
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you, night and day.
Night and day under the hide of me
There’s an oh, such a hungry yearning
Burning inside of me.
And its torment won’t be through
Till you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day.
Here all three stanzas are epanalepses, which generate other epanalepses – they span the whole lyric, the first two stanzas and the last two stanzas. And the lyric’s final line, albeit without a clause, is also an epanalepsis, beginning and ending with the same word – “day”. The lyric’s first sentence “Night and day you are the one, / Only you beneath the moon and under the sun” is a quasi-epanalepsis: the meaning of the end words (“beneath the moon and under the sun”) reprises that of the beginning words (“Night and day”).
There is epanalepsis within epanalepsis. Removing the first-stanza iterations of the phrase “Night and day” leaves a reasonably coherent passage that begins and ends with the word “you” – a pattern underscored by the two iterations of “you” towards its beginning and the two towards its end: “… you are the one, / Only you beneath the moon and under the sun. / Whether near to me or far / It’s no matter, darling, where you are, I think of you”. Removing the “Night and day” that begins the final stanza yields a quasi-epanalepsis: it begins and ends with phrases each ending with the word “me”, of similar meaning and similar sound: “… under the hide of me / There’s an oh, such a hungry yearning / Burning inside of me”. And another epanalepsis is the final clause, “Till you let me spend my life making love to you”: “you” is near its beginning and at its end.
And the epanalepses are linked to other repetition-based figures of speech. There is anadiplosis – the first stanza ends and the second begins with “day”; the second stanza ends and the third begins with “night and day”. The final epanalepsis – “Day and night, night and day” – is an antimetabole. The three consecutive epanalepses of the entire lyric generate a nameless figure of speech.
The meanings of the repeated words, “night and day” and “day and night”, do not change. But in the last line the reference changes – from the present, the time of the current yearning, to a hoped-for fulfilled future. So the epanalepses, except those that begin before the final line and end with the final line, are identical. This saturation with identical epanalepsis, with its end-beginning repetition, powerfully conveys what the song is about: romantic obsession, marked by compulsive repetition in thought and feeling; a sense of being caught in a bind. The last line change in reference – the only such change – signifies hope for release. Strikingly, romantic obsession is here conveyed by a lyric of intricate and elegant patterning.
Love Obsession need not be tied to yearning for what one lacks. In Johnny Mercer’s “Day In–Day Out” (1939; music by Rube Bloom), desire is obsessive yet fulfilled:
Day in–day out,
The same old hoodoo follows me about.
The same old pounding in my heart
Whenever I think of you,
And, darling, I think of you
Day in–day out.
Day out–day in,
I needn’t tell you how my days begin.
When I awake I awaken with a tingle,
One possibility in view,
That possibility of maybe seeing you.
Come rain, come shine,
I meet you and to me the day is fine.
Then I kiss your lips
And the pounding becomes
The ocean’s roar,
A thousand drums.
Can’t you see it’s love?
Can there be any doubt?
When there it is,
Day in–day out.
An epanalepsis extends across the first stanza, another across the remaining two. And these generate another that extends across the whole lyric. Intersecting with the whole-lyric epanalepsis is a quasi-epanalepsis across the third stanza. The idiom “Come rain, come shine” at its beginning and the idiom “Day in–day out” at its end evoke the same idea: always. As with “Day by Day”, the phrases repeated in the epanalepses themselves involve repetition – here a beat that suggests heart pounding and pulsing desire.
The sense of inescapable obsession is intensified by other figures of speech. There is the nameless figure of speech generated by consecutive epanalepses. There is anadiplosis: the last two words of the first stanza are the same as the first two words of the second stanza. Taken together the last line of the first stanza and the first line of the second stanza yield a kind of antimetabole – and indeed a kind of epanalepsis. Of the four lines enclosed by the first stanza epanalepsis, the first two are anaphoric, with beginning repetition; the second two epistrophic, with end repetition. The shift here from beginning emphasis to end emphasis resonates with epanaleptic emphases. The second stanza’s first line is the beginning of the epanalepsis that extends to the end of the lyric. And this beginning iteration is followed by four lines – the remainder of this stanza – with anaphoric repetition: the word “I” is repeated at or toward the beginning of each of the first two lines; the word “possibility” toward the beginning of each of the next second two of these lines.
The phrase “Come rain, come shine” involves conceptual, not just verbal, variation pertaining to the repeated ideas of the quasi-epanalepsis. When first encountered at the third-stanza beginning, it seems to express the same idea as the first phrases of the previous stanzas – the idea always. But by the end of the sentence to which it belongs, it has another, albeit related, meaning: “No matter what the weather”. Moreover, the phrase here releases an association of the word “day” – an association with weather (“I meet you and to me the day is fine”) – not there in the phrase “Day in–day out”. At the climax, the lyric’s most striking metaphors – “the pounding becomes / The ocean’s roar, / A thousand drums” – though not the kind of figure of speech that involves verbal repetition, evoke multiplication and increase that pertain to the pounding of the heart, pounding that already involves repetition, a repetition evoked in this lyric by figures that do involve repetition. So the two kinds of figures of speech converge. Notable also is the wordplay in the last four lines. In “Can’t you see it’s love?”, “it” evokes most obviously the speaker’s whole state of mind and being. In the line “When there it is”, the word “it” suggests the physical manifestation of this state of mind: the pounding of the speaker’s heart, a pounding evoked by the wordplay oscillation. The final iteration of the phrase “Day in–day out” – the phrase so emphasised by the lyric’s epanalepses – qualifies the clause of which this “it” is the subject.
As with “Night and Day”, epanaleptic circularity here conveys the inescapability of romantic obsession. But here it is more inescapable, intensified rather than relieved by romantic fulfilment. Identical epanalepsis spans the whole lyric, with no change of referent. But how we hear the phrase “Day in–day out” changes. At first associated with irritation and frustration, particularly given the repetition of “same old”, because the incessant, inescapable pounding is celebrated, the phrase becomes increasingly joyous – a transformation that is part and parcel of the joy.
Love Lost is another theme that epanalepsis lends itself to. Here is Yip Harburg’s “Last Night When We Were Young” (1935; music by Harold Arlen):
When we were young
Love was a star,
A song unsung,
Life was so new,
So real, so right,
The world is old.
You went away
And time grew cold.
Where is that star
That seemed so bright
That Spring had depended
On merely this,
A look, a kiss.
That something so splendid
Could slip away
In one little daybreak.
The sighs and the kisses,
The arms that clung
When we were young,
Besides an inconspicuous quasi-epanalepsis spanning the middle stanzas – it begins with “Today” and ends with “daybreak” – are three clearcut epanalepses: the opening stanza; the first two stanzas combined; the whole lyric. Each repeats the phrase “Last night” and each begins with the lyric’s first occurrence of this phrase. And there is a kind of doubling. For if focus is not on the single opening line and the single closing line but on the opening pair and the closing pair, then the first two of these epanalepses become quasi-epanalepses: each begins with the lines “Last night / When we were young” and ends with two lines of similar meaning, “Ages ago / Last night”. And in the case of the whole lyric, the first pair of lines (“Last night / When we were young”) and the last pair (“When we were young, / Last night”) are so close that at issue is probably best described as an epanalepsis rather than a quasi-epanalepsis – an epanalepsis which differs from that beginning and ending simply with “Last night”.
Combining this epanalepsis’s repeated expressions yields antimetabole. And chiasmus arises from combining the repeated expressions of each of the two quasi-epanalepses. For two occurrences of the phrase “Last night” enclose different phrases with the same referent, “When we were young” and “Ages ago”. Moreover, a figure of speech I am inclined to call “antithetical juxtaposition” is in the epanaleptic repetitions. For in the expressions “Last night, / When we were young”, “When we were young / Last night” and “Ages ago / Last night”, the first half is at odds with the second, engendering a sense of paradox evincing bewilderment and pain more than wonder and awe.
All of this, in the context of the lyric’s meaning, makes for unusually tortuous epanalepsis. Besides the relentlessness of the repetition, the repeated elements are marked by great tension, evoking uncrossable barriers thwarting the bewildered speaker. To some extent plenitude, presence, and fulfilment characterise the irretrievable lost love. Yet this love is “a song unsung” involving “sighs” and “arms that clung”: absence, lack, and yearning mark everything. Epanaleptic circularity, more even than in “I Fall in Love Too Easily”, evokes double bind, imprisonment even. Few Tin Pan Alley lyrics are so dark, and the darkness is epanalepsis-saturated.
Lost love lyrics are not always this anguished. Here is Johnny Mercer’s “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962; music by Henry Mancini), written for the movie of the same name:
The days of wine and roses
Laugh and run away
Like a child at play
Through the meadowland
Toward a closing door,
A door marked “Nevermore”
That wasn’t there before.
The lonely night discloses
Just a passing breeze
Filled with memories
Of the golden smile that introduced me to
The days of wine and roses
Striking for its imagery, particularly the closing door, this lyric’s only obvious verbal-repetition literary devices are a single whole-work epanalepsis and an anadiplosis pertaining to the door – a repetition that evokes catching one’s breath in the face of ongoing movement. The lack of repetition conveys the fleetingness and transience that is the theme, and, in a certain way, foregrounds the most obvious repeated phrase, “The days of wine and roses”. At the lyric’s beginning, this phrase begins a sentence that describes the passing, the disappearance, of those days, days no longer mentioned in the sentence’s last clause. The phrase returns towards the end of the lyric, near the end of a sentence (the lyric’s only other sentence) that describes the coming of memories, memories of the days that were. In evoking departure and return, disappearance and reappearance, the epanalepsis evokes circularity, reversal – a reversal also suggested by the shift from the word “closing” towards the end of the first sentence to the word “discloses” toward the beginning of the second sentence (here there is a hint of polyptoton). But the latter word being less straightforward than the former and rather unidiomatic here bespeaks numbness, loss of spontaneity, in the wake of the loss, a hollowness in the reversal. And even as the reversal seems to gather speed, ending up affirming the power of love and memory, there is no going back: the joyous closing words are tinged by a melancholy unknown to the child at play that, at the beginning, is the personification of the departed days. Borne by a “passing breeze”, the memories are transience touched. Joy in the memory there may be. But there is no annulling of the “Nevermore” written on the closing door, the door which in effect closes the first sentence and is not forgotten at the end of the second sentence.
Epanaleptic repetition here emphasises not only the repeated phrase but the word “you”, the only important word after the epanaleptic second iteration. Occurring only once and only at the very end, “you” designates the ultimate, unique source of value and meaning, testifying, in its very withholding, to preciousness, and perhaps to a reticence about even uttering the word.
I end with another Johnny Mercer early 1960s lost love lyric, “Charade” (1963; music by Mancini):
When we played our charade,
We were like children posing,
Playing at games,
Acting out names,
Guessing the parts we played.
Oh, what a hit we made!
We came on next to closing,
Best of the bill,
Love left the masquerade.
Fate seemed to pull the strings;
I turned and you were gone,
While from the darkened wings
The music box played on.
Sad little serenade,
Song of my heart’s composing –
I hear it still,
I always will,
Best on the bill –
The phrase “we played” occurs towards the first stanza’s beginning and at its very end; the word “played” occurs towards the first stanza’s beginning and towards the end of the third; the word “charade” is in the lyric’s first line and at the lyric’s very end.
The epanalepses do not stand out as epanalepses. In the last cases, the distance between iterations contributes to the inconspicuousness. The much closer single-stanza iterations generate little sense of the return of an idea. In itself, the repeated phrase “we played”, which appears only in subordinate clauses, feels incomplete. It omits the object of the verb; and the object at the beginning (“charade”) differs from the object at the end (“the parts”). Grammatically distinct, the iterations hardly feel like repetitions. First off, the object follows the verb and the phrase is in an adverbial clause; at the stanza’s end the object precedes the verb and the phrase is in a relative clause. But the epanalepses here are subtle and telling.
The whole lyric epanalepsis repeats the word of the song’s title. This word, “charade”, has two meanings – one morally loaded: “an absurd pretence intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance”; the other more descriptive: “a game in which players guess a word or phrase from a written or acted clue given for each syllable and for the whole word”. Predominant here is the first meaning, the meaning of this word’s first occurrence. But the game meaning is soon evoked – by the lines “Playing at games, / Acting out names”, in the middle of stanza 1. It is as if charade the game becomes a metaphor for charade the absurd pretence. At the lyric’s end, the word seems to become a proper name – the name of the “Sad little serenade, / Song of my heart’s composing” referred to at the last stanza’s beginning, a song which we can presume merges with the song we are now listening to, a song which as we seen is about charade as an absurd pretence and in which charade the game is metaphor for charade the pretence. So epanalepsis here is tied to a sense of a song within a song, of mise-en-abyme, of circles in circles, in which the speaker is trapped.
In the first-stanza epanalepsis, which repeats the words “we played”, the verb “played” at the beginning correlates with the absurd pretence meaning of “charade”. But as lines in the middle of stanza evoke the game meaning of “charade”, by the stanza’s last line, “Guessing the parts we played”, “played” oscillates between these two different meanings of charade – and also suggests the idea of play in an actor’s craft. And another idea of play emerges with the last line of the third stanza, the end of a three-stanza epanalepsis: “The music box played on”. This metaphor for the ballroom orchestra playing after the lovers have left the dance associates play with what is mechanical, passive, imitative. This association is there also in this stanza’s first line, “Fate seemed to pull the strings”, which suggests a puppet, another kind of toy. Already the first stanza line “We were like children posing”, a simile describing the lost love, has divested children’s play of the simple spontaneity and innocent joy it often evokes – as, for example, in “The Days of Wine and Roses”. The personification of love as a player in a masquerade contributes to the sense that the love is hollow – lost – from the outset. It is no accident that the word “masquerade” ends the second stanza and rhymes (literally and metaphorically) with the epanaleptic repetition words: “played” and “charade”. Multiple meanings, and a sense of words caught in a kind of dance, evoke a world of appearances, of shifting sands, and of losing one’s bearings.
With Johnny Mercer, the Tin Pan Alley lyric comes as close to poetry as it ever got – an achievement involving subtle epanalepsis. Appropriately perhaps, Sammy Cahn’s tribute to Mercer is an epanalepsis, albeit not an especially poetic one: “Mercer was no poet. Shakespeare was a poet. But Shakespeare was no Johnny Mercer!” But with respect to the skilful deployment of epanalepsis, a Tin Pan Alley lyricist does not need to have been Johnny Mercer. Its ubiquity does not make Tin Pan Alley epanalepsis banal or merely formulaic. It rewards our attention.