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incremental repetition


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A modern term for a device of repetition commonly found in ballads. It involves the repetition of lines or stanzas with small but crucial changes made to a few words from one to the next, and has an effect of narrative progression or suspense. It is found most often in passages of dialogue, as in the traditional Scottish ballad, ‘Lord Randal’:‘What d' ye leave to your mother, Lord Randal, my son?What d'ye leave to your mother, my handsome young man?’‘Four and twenty milk kye; mother, mak my bed soon,For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’‘What d' ye leave to your sister, Lord Randal, my son?What d' ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man?’‘My gold and my silver; mother, mak my bed soon,For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie down.’

Subjects: Literature.


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