Rhyme is a literary tool where the same or similar sounds are repeated at the end of a pair or group of words.

It can occur with words that are next to each other (as a couplet) or in a more complex rhyme scheme.

What is a Rhyme Scheme?

This is often a key part of the poem.  It includes the meter, rhythm and the overall form and structure of the poem, and it also describes the rhyming structure, typically represented by using letters.  For example, the scheme ABAB would be a scheme in which the first and third words rhyme with each other, and also the second and fourth.

Different Forms of Rhymes

Feminine-ended
Where the rhyme occurs with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable: e.g. very and berry.

Masculine-ended
Where the rhyme occurs with a single stressed syllable: e.g. bat and mat.

Rhyming couplet
This is where a pair of lines (that are normally a similar length) have a matching rhyme.

Heroic couplet
A heroic couplet is a stanza composed of rhyming pairs of verse in iambic pentameter.  The prefix ‘heroic couplet’ is used because originally English poetry was a way in which stories about heroes were told.

Rhyme royal
A type of poetry consisting of stanzas of seven lines in iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ABABBCC.  It was first used by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Slant rhyme
A rhyme that isn’t quite exact, for example “dear” and “door”. The words sound similar, but they aren’t close enough to be perfect.

Why is Rhyme used?

  • Create a rhythm and flow: The use of rhyme helps to develop the rhythm of text, encouraging readers to place emphasis on certain elements or match a certain pace of reading.
  • Play with sounds: It can help to encourage the creation of different sounds, and is often used in conjunction with techniques such as sibilance, dissonance, assonance and consonance.
  • Focus on key parts: A rhyming scheme can help to place additional emphasis on certain parts of a poem or piece of text due, either through its influence on the rhythm or by creating a cyclical or repetitive feel.
  • Developing a Structure:  The pattern of rhyme in a stanza or poem is a significant influence on the structure of a poem, particularly the length of stanzas and lines.

Examples of Rhyme

William Blake uses rhyming couplets in ‘Songs of Innocence: Holy Thursday’ (English Romantic Verse) to help create the structure and rhythm of the poem.

Twas on a Holy Thursday their innocent faces clean

The children walking two & two in red & blue & green

While this is a relatively simple rhyming couplet between words of a single syllable, it is still an effective form of rhyme because it gives a clear and distinctive structure and rhythm to each line.  The additional emphasis placed on words such as “clean” and “green” also highlights their positive connotations.

‘After the Lunch’ by Wendy Cope (Love Poetry Through the Ages) also uses a rhyming couplet scheme, using the technique both as a structural device and as a way to influence the mood of the poem.

“I wipe them away with a black woolly glove //

And try not to notice I’ve fallen in love.”

The couplet scheme creates a playful and positive tone to the poem, perhaps reminiscent of a childlike enthusiasm, demonstrating the mix of happy thoughts that the speaker is feeling as a result of this lunch date.  The sound of the rhyme is particularly noticeable, with the first couplet of each stanza having a more positive and uplifting sound (-ye, -ink, -air) compared to the lower pitched sounds of the second couplet (-ove, -ong, -oss).

Sponsored Links