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20+ Anastrophe Examples That Aren’t Complete Nonsense 

by Kris Freeman

on

Anastrophe examples help us to understand a literary device that sounds puzzling.

Look at this quote from Yoda, a character from the Star Wars movies, “when you look at the dark side, careful you must be”:

Most people pause after reading this — because it’s not regular syntax.

Yoda cleverly uses anastrophe to highlight the wisdom he dispenses throughout his teachings.

In this post, you’ll see real-life anastrophe examples that promise to inspire your next masterpiece turning boring text into something memorable.

A mind-bending literary device that makes your readers stand up and pay attention.

Dive in, shall we?

Anastrophe Examples ichimabi getty images

Anastrophe Meaning

Anastrophe, also known as an inversion, reverses the normal word order of subject, verb, object structure to object, subject, verb. This inverted order will cause a reader to pause or change the rhythmic effect of words. 

You’ll find prolific use of this literary device in poetry

However, anastrophe allows you to turn any sentence structure on its head — a greek word meaning “turning upside down.”

How and When to Use Anastrophe Phrases

Simple changes can invert a sentence, like placing an adjective after the noun, putting a verb before the subject, or moving a preposition behind its noun.  

And yes, what’s left can often sound nonsensical. Still, it can dramatically affect your audience — causing them to pay more attention by saying wait, what?

You’ll see writers, speakers, poets, and lyricists use anastrophe to reflect their personality, a figure of speech, poetic license, or rhyming. 

Let’s check out the following examples to see anastrophe in action.

The Subject-Noun Follows the Verb

  • Normal Syntax – They will wolf down the hot dog.
  • Anastrophe – Wolf down the hot dog, they will.

The Adjective Follows the Noun

  • Normal Syntax – Nancy tried to pull up her sagging socks.
  • Anastrophe – Sagging socks, Nancy pulled up.

The Verb Follows the Object

  • Normal Syntax – Lies create hypocrisy.
  • Anastrophe – Hypocrisy, lies create.

Next, let’s dive in and observe some well-known examples in pop culture, literature, poetry, Shakespeare, and famous speeches to glimpse anastrophe in its full glory.

Anastrophe Examples in Pop Culture

1. “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica

Anastrophe Examples in Pop Culture

 “Never opened myself this way

Life is ours, we live it our way

All these words I don’t just say

And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you

Every day for us something new

Open mind for a different view

And nothing else matters”

Metallica uses anastrophe in this song and utilizes successive clauses to create a rhyming effect.

2. “Willow” by Taylor Swift

The more that you say, the less I know

Wherever you stray, I follow

I’m begging for you to take my hand

Wreck my plans, that’s my man”

Taylor Swift uses anastrophe here to disrupt the common phrase the more I say, the less I know.

3. Famous Star Wars Saga Quotes by Jedi Master Yoda

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?    

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”

Personality-related, these anastrophe examples are. Yoda is notorious for using this type of syntax as a rhetorical device — highlighting his wisdom to capture one’s attention. 

4. “Pulp Fiction” by Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction is another example of anastrophe. From a plot perspective, Tarantino deviates from the natural order. He weaves together four seemingly unrelated stories in a non-linear fashion to create an anastrophe effect.

5. “Back to the Future” by Robert Zemeckis

Director, Robert Zemeckis, turns events upside down throughout this back-and-forth reality-bending movie about time travel and the need not to upset the past. All so the character Marty McFly can get back to the future. This movie is an infamous example of anastrophes. 

Anastrophe Examples In Literature

Anastrophe Examples in Literature

6. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man.

He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.”

Edgar Allen Poe uses anastrophe to emphasize the narrator’s lack of motivation.

7. “1984” by George Orwell

Of pain, you could wish only one thing: that it should stop.

Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain, there are no heroes.

George Orwell cleverly starts this passage with an emphasis on pain. He then inverts the last sentence to highlight there are no heroes

8. “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens

Talent, Mr. Micawber has

capital, Mr. Micawber has not.”

Charles Dickens could have written, in the normal order, that Mr. Micawber has talent but does not have capital. However, he uses an inverted order; otherwise, he would have lost his spotlight on the character’s traits.

9. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. 

Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat:

it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.”

Tolkien is brilliant at using anastrophe to bring attention to the hole – creating vivid imagery that compels the reader to wonder what kind of hole a hobbit dwells in.

Anastrophe Examples In Poetry

Anastrophe Examples in Poetry

10. “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe 

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”-

Merely this and nothing more.”

Edgar Allen Poe’s use of anastrophe in The Raven accentuates the steady decline of the speaker’s mental state.

11. “The Butterfly’s Day” by Emily Dickinson

From Cocoon forth a Butterfly

As Lady from her Door

Emerged-a summer afternoon-

Repairing everywhere.”

Creating compelling rhythms and sounds, Emily Dickinson was a master at the art of anastrophe.

12. “Ireland With Emily” by John Betjeman

“Bells are booming down the bohreens,

White the mist along the grass,

Now the Julias, Maeves and Maureens

Move between the fields to Mass.

Twisted trees of small green apple

Guard the decent whitewashed chapel.”

By moving the apple to the end of the sentence, John Betjeman can make the following line of the poem rhyme with the chapel.

13. “To a Captious Critic” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

“Dear critic, who my lightness so deplores,

Would I might study to be prince of bores,

Right wisely would I rule that dull estate-

But, sir, I may not, till you abdicate.”

Dunbar uses anastrophe to create rhyming, moving verbs and adjectives before the subject to invert these lines from their natural word order.

Anastrophe Examples From William Shakespeare

Anastrophe Examples From Shakespeare

14. Sonnet 18 

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d…

Shakespeare, a master of literary terms, uses anastrophe to end these four lines with strong verbs and rhyming for effect.

15. Hamlet 

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all – to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s longest plays, contains famous anastrophes still used today. You’ll notice both lines end with a verb that emphasizes sage wisdom.

16. Antony and Cleopatra 

Be it as our gods will have it,

It only stands our lives upon, to use our strongest hands.”

Shakespeare inverts these two lines to emphasize rhyming and rhythm in his writing.

17. Romeo and Juliet

O, swear not by the moon,

th’ inconstant moon,

That monthly changes in her circled orb,

Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.”

The anastrophe here serves as a way to end the first two lines on the moon, followed by the last two lines to emphasize the changing behavior of love.

Anastrophe Examples from Famous Speeches

Anastrophe Examples From Famous Speeches

18. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” by Patrick Henry

Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. 

Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.”

The last two lines of this revolutionary speech, warning American revolutionaries against the British Army, use anastrophe to highlight Patrick Henry’s fear of false niceties.

19. Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address (1989)

“And how stands the city on this winter night?” 

Reagan used the verb (stands) before the noun (city) to boldly address the state of the union before he departed office.

20. John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address Speach (1961)

“Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”

Kennedy uses anastrophe to invert “arms we need” and “embattled we are” to invite his audience to listen closely and elicit consensus.

21. “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” by Winston Churchill

“The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.” 

The inversion of “native soil” with “to the death” showcases the invincible spirit of the Allied soldiers upon entering World War II.

Make Sense, Anastrophe Examples Do

I hope you’re inspired to sound, well… kind of silly.

Because yes, anastrophe doesn’t sound right in proper subject, verb, and object syntax. But you’ll find it in many popular literary devices.

Was John F. Kennedy foolish when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country “?

So take a leap of faith and create something memorable by adding anastrophe to your next literary work.

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Kris Freeman

A certified content marketer, SEO strategist, and copy editor with Smart Blogger, Kris Freeman, knows how to please the ‘Google gods’ so that your content gets noticed, adds value to your audience, and starts to rank in Google. To see more of Kris's work check out her portfolio or sign up for her blog at the self-kindness experiment.

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Written by Kris Freeman

A certified content marketer, SEO strategist, and copy editor with Smart Blogger, Kris Freeman, knows how to please the ‘Google gods’ so that your content gets noticed, adds value to your audience, and starts to rank in Google. To see more of Kris's work check out her portfolio or sign up for her blog at the self-kindness experiment.