Breaking Down Epimone with Examples

Epimone (derives from Greek combination: epi “upon”, mone “tarrying”), is a form of speech which consists when we dwell upon a focal point or argument, in which what was earlier stated is emphasized to deepen the impression.

Following George PuttenhamOpens in new window’s definition, epimone is “the repetition of a verse in poetry or of an opinion in an oration,” and also identifies it as “poetry containing repeated elements or lines”.

Observations and Examples of Epimone

The main purpose of epimone is to render some word or thought ridiculously by its frequent repetition, and showing its repetitive nature as an element of emphasis or focal point.

This is so because the repetition is not only of words, but more focally of sense, by way of persisting on the principal point of the subject, so that it may be well understood, and remain with due weight upon the mind of the listener or audience. This is notable in the legendary Sir Sidney's verse, and in subsequent examples outlined below:

Observation One — Epimone in Doublets:
  • I tell you, sir, I’m serious! And now that my passions are roused, I say this house is mine, sir; this house is mine, and I command you to leave it directly.
  • — Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer (1773)
  • To send forth the infidel savage – against whom? against your Protestant brethren; to lay waste their country, to desolate their dwellings, and extirpate their race and name with these horrible hell-hounds of savage war – hell-bounds, I say, of savage war!
  • — Pitt, speech in the House of Lords (1777)
  • The cause, then, Sir, the cause! Let the world know the cause which has thus induced one State of the Union to bid defiance to the power of the whole, and openly to talk of secession.
  • — Webster, speech in the Senate (1833)
Observation Two — Epimone in Triplets
  • Most lamentable day, most woeful day,
    That ever, ever, I did yet behold!
    O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!
  • — Romeo and Juliet, 4, 5
  • “He was a beggar, perhaps.”
    Mr. Dick shook his head, as utterly renouncing the suggestion; and having replied a great many times, and with great confidence, ‘No beggar, no beggar, no beggar, Sir!’
  • Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
Observation Three: The refrain

Repetition of longer phrases is apt to become gentler on the ear especially where the phrases are spread apart, which tend to add a choral effect, as when signifying the provocation of same response by different possibilities. This is typical of the following:

  • Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.
  • — Julius Caesar, 3, 2
  • There I have another bad match: a bankrupt, a prodigal, who dare scarce show his head on the Rialto; a beggar, that was us’d to come so smug upon the mart. Let him look to his bond. He was wont to call me usurer; let him look to his bond. He was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy; let him look to his bond.
  • — The Merchant of Venice, 3, I
  • Me thinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! Aye, he enters the sign of storms, the equinox! And but six months before he wheeled out of a former equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in throes, ‘t is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it, then! Here’s stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then.
  • Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
Observation Four: Intermittent Repetition of Phrases

By this medium a less rhythmic and more spontaneous effect can be achieved by revolving around the same or a nearly identical phrase less systematically. Here, the speaker may not intend to resolve to refrain; but he may not help it saying the thing again and again, as follows:

  • Say not to me that it is not the lamp of lamps. I say to you it is. I say to you, a million of times over, it is. It is! I say to you that I will proclaim it to you, whether you like it or not; nay, that the less you like it, the more I will proclaim it to you.
  • — Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
  • I say we must necessarily undo these violent oppressive acts; they must be repealed – you will repeal them; I pledge myself for it, that you will in the end repeal them; I stake my reputation on it – I will consent to be taken for an idiot, if they are finally repealed.
  • — Pitt, speech in the House of Lords (1770)
  • What could follow but one vast spoliation? One vast spoliation! That would be bad enough. That would be the greatest calamity that ever fell on our country. Yet would that a single vast spoliation were the worst!.
Observation Five: Emphasized Repetition

This technique is often used by the speaker's deliberate act of alerting the audience. Observe the following:

  • There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
  • Henry, speech at the Second Revolutionary Congress of Virginia (1775)
  • When you have to attend to things of that sort, to ther mere incidents of the surface, the reality – the reality, I tell you – fades.
  • Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899)
  • My true love hath my heart and I have his,
    By just exchange one for another given;
    I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
    There never was a better bargain driven.

    My true love hath my heart and I have his.
    My heart in me keeps him and me in one,
    My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
    He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
    I cherish his because in me it bides.

    My true love hath my heart, and I have his.
  • Sir Philip Sidney, Song from Arcadia
Further Readings:
The Art of English Poesy | George Puttinham
Susenbrotus (1540) 41;
Putt. (1589) 233 (“epimone,” “the love burden”)