Rhyme

Rhyme is the similarity in sound of the ends of words: the last stressed syllable and the following unstressed syllables (if any). Rhyme is usually a structuring device in verse. Of course not all poetry rhymes: classical Greek and Latin poetry never rhyme, for instance. When rhyming verses are arranged into stanzas, we can identify the rhyme scheme by assigning letters each rhyme, beginning with a and proceeding through the alphabet. Couplets, for instance — such as Pope's

'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing, or in judging ill;
But of the two, much greater is th' offence
To tire the patience, than mislead the sense
— rhyme aa bb, and so on -- a represents the ill sound, b represents the ence sound. A quatrain such as
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way
is said to rhyme abab, where a represents ife, and b represents ay. More complicated patterns can be described the same way: the sonnet, for instance, can be abab cdcd efef gg or abba abba cdecde; the Spenserian stanza rhymes ababbcbcc.

Most rhymes appear at the end of lines, but internal rhyme is the appearance of similar sounds somewhere in the middle of a verse. Words in the middle can rhyme with other words in the middle or words at the end of lines.


From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
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