When conjunctions (but, for, so, or, and) are done away with after every successive clause or phrase for effect, then it’s called asyndeton. For example: I came; I saw; I conquered. It is the opposite of polysyndeton.
The word asyndeton comes from Greek asyndetos meaning “not bound together”.
Examples of asyndeton
We met, we got engaged, we married.
She is addicted to chocolates, cakes, cookies.
I could have gone to war, I didn’t.
He tried to betray you, to cheat you, to deceive you.
Smile, talk, bye-bye.
He received applause, prizes, money, fame.
He provided her education, allowance, dignity.
Example of asyndeton in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
“Listlessly, yet confidently, poor people all of them, they waited; looked at the Palace itself with the flag flying; at Victoria, billowing on her mound, admired her shelves of running water, her geraniums; singled out from the motor cars in the Mall first this one…”
Example of asyndeton in The Scholar-Gypsy by Matthew Arnold
Lines 151 – 153
“Thou hast not lived, why should’st thou perish, so?
Thou hadst one aim, one business, one desire;
Else wert thou long since number’d with the dead!”
Example of asyndeton in Her Kind by Anne Sexton
“I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods…”
When conjunctions (and, or, but, so, yet, for) are used in close succession even when they are not required, then it’s called polysyndeton. It is usually used for emphasis and rhythm. For example: He came and bowed andlaughed and dropped into a chair.
The word polysyndeton comes from Greek polysyndetos meaning “bound together”.
Examples of polysyndeton
Example of polysyndeton in Me Imperturbe by Walt Whitman
“Me toward the Mexican Sea, or in the Mannahatta, or the Tennessee, or far north,or inland,
A river man, or a man of the woods, or of any farm-life in These States, or of the coast, or the lakes, or Kanada…”
Example of polysyndeton in Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats
“What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these?”
Example of polysyndeton in Prometheus Unbound by Percy B. Shelley
“And each dark tree that ever grew,
Is curtained out from Heaven’s wide blue;
Nor sun, nor moon, nor wind, nor rain,
Can pierce its interwoven bowers…”