Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zeugma and Syllepsis

Poetry terms: zeugma; syllepsis

Zeugma: A figure of speech in which a single verb or noun governs more than one part of a sentence.

I had a burrito; my wife, tacos.
- the verb “had” is omitted in the second clause

“Lust conquered shame, audacity fear, madness reason.”
- Cicero, from Pro Cluento (the verb “conquered” is omitted from the second and third clauses)

“The Roman people destroyed Numantia, razed Carthage, demolished Corinth, and overthrew Fregella.”
- from Rhetorica ad Herennium (the subject “The Roman people” serves all four verbs)

Syllepsis: a specific type of zeugma in which the verb’s multiple objects are not parallel in terms of grammar or meaning. Used primarily for comic effect, highlighting the disjunction between the verb’s objects.

"Mr. Pickwick took his hat and his leave." (Charles Dickens)

Close by those Meads for ever crown'd with Flow'rs,
Where Thames with Pride surveys his rising Tow'rs,
There stands a Structure of Majestic Fame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its Name.
Her Britain's Statesmen oft the Fall foredoom
Of foreign Tyrants, and of Nymphs at home;
Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes Counsel take-and sometimes Tea.
- Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Canto III

You should be able to find at least one example of zeugma and syllepsis in next week’s reading. See if you can spot it!

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