Rhyme

Definition of Rhyme

Rhyme is a literary device, featured particularly in poetry, in which identical or similar concluding syllables in different words are repeated. Rhyme most often occurs at the ends of poetic lines. In addition, rhyme is principally a function of sound rather than spelling. For example, words rhyme that end with the same vowel sound but have different spellings: day, prey, weigh, bouquet. This is true for words with the same consonant ending as well: vain, rein, lane. Rhyme is therefore predominantly independent of the way words look or are spelled. Writers use rhymes as a way to create sound patterns in order to emphasize certain words and their relationships with others in an artistic manner.

An example of the emphasis of rhyme as a function of the sounds or pronunciations of words is the poem “Going to Extremes” by Richard Armour:

Shake and shake

The catsup bottle

None’ll come–

And then a lot’ll.

Rhyme in this case provides an overall structure for Armour’s poem. By rhyming “bottle” with “lot’ll,” the poet achieves an effect that is satisfying and fulfilling for the reader, both in the poem’s form and content.

Common Examples of Rhyme Forms

There are many types of rhyme, particularly in poetry. Here are some common examples of rhyme forms:

  • Perfect Rhyme: This rhyme form features two words that share the exact assonance and number of syllables, and is also known as a true rhyme. (skylight and twilight)
  • Slant Rhymes: This rhyme form features words with similar but not exact assonance and/or number of syllables. This is also known as half rhyme or imperfect rhyme. (grieve and believe)
  • Eye Rhymes: This rhyme form features two words that appear similar when read, but do not actually rhyme when spoken or pronounced. (Mood and hoodmove and dove)
  • Masculine Rhyme: This rhyming form takes place between the final stressed syllables of two lines. (compare and repair)
  • Feminine Rhyme: This rhyming form features multi-syllables in which stressed and unstressed syllables rhyme with each other, respectively. (lazy and crazy)
  • End Rhymes: These are rhymes that occur between the final words of two consecutive lines of poetry or non-consecutive lines following rhyme scheme in a stanza.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forest of the Night.

Examples of Rhymes in Nursery Tales

Mother Goose and other nursery tales feature rhyme as a foundation for language acquisition, reading, and listening comprehension for children. In addition to enhancing speech and literacy skills, these rhyming poems and tales generate interest and appreciation for artistic use of language. Here are some examples of rhymes in nursery tales:

  • Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
  • Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock
  • Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
  • Sugar and spice and everything nice
  • Jack Sprat could eat no fat
  • It’s raining, it’s pouring; the old man is snoring
  • hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle
  • Jack and Jill went up the hill
  • Peter Peter, pumpkin eater
  • Rain, rain go away; come again another day
  • little bo peep has lost her sheep
  • Miss Polly had a dolly
  • Old King Cole was a merry old soul
  • Simple Simon met a pieman
  • Three little kittens have lost their mittens

Famous Examples of Rhymes in Common Phrases

When people use rhyming words in everyday speech, the purpose is generally to appeal to a sense of rhythm in language and use rhyming sounds to create memorable expressions. Here are some famous examples of rhymes in common phrases:

  • See you later, alligator
  • Too cool for school
  • Make or break
  • Shop ’til you drop
  • Meet and greet
  • Nearest and dearest
  • Fender bender
  • Blame game
  • Hustle and bustle
  • Handy dandy
  • Study buddy
  • Sky high
  • True blue
  • Boy toy
  • Double trouble

Writing Rhymes

In writing, rhyme is most closely associated with poetry. This literary art form is considered quite difficult to master, and although not every poem features rhyming words or patterns, rhyme is an important literary device for poets. To develop rhyme as a writing skill, there are helpful strategies to use:

  • Utilize rhyme scheme: Rhyme scheme is the ordered pattern of rhymes at the ends of lines of a poem. This order can be helpful for writers to understand rhyme and its effect. Some simple rhyme schemes to rely on for beginning writers are ABAB or ABCB. These letters indicate where the rhymes take place at the end of the lines. In ABAB, the first and third lines rhyme at the end, as do the second and fourth lines. In ABCB, just the second and fourth lines rhyme at the end.
  • Explore different poetic forms: Another strategy for writers to develop rhyming technique is to explore different forms of poetry with specific types of rhyme and rhyme schemes. These might include sonnets, limericks, and even ballad.
  • Explore different types and forms of rhyme: Writers can explore different types and forms of rhyme instead of being limited to end rhymes in poetry.

Examples of Rhyme in Literature

Poetry is considered the artistic use of human language as a means of showcasing the aesthetic quality of words as equal or greater in value to their meaning and semantic content. Rhymes enhance this literary art form through repetition of sounds and formation of creative word patterns. As a literary device, rhyme elevates the reader’s experience and understanding of literature through its effect on the musical quality and impact of language.

Here are some examples of rhyme in literature and the way it enhances the value of poetry:

Example 1: Still I Rise (Maya Angelou)

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
In these stanzas of Angelou’s poem, she demonstrates the power of artistic language for the reader by utilizing almost consistent perfect rhymes as a literary device with ABCB rhyme scheme. The effect of this is magnified in the poem by the way each stanza directly addresses or questions the reader. The end rhymes for these stanzas are impactful for several reasons. For example, the rhymes render the questions directed at the reader as rhetorical, for dramatic effect rather than seeking a legitimate response.
In addition, Angelou effectively uses rhyme as a literary device for the poet to take ownership of her thoughts, attitude, body, and response to those who are prejudiced with hate against her. Therefore, regardless of how the reader feels about the poet as a black woman, the repetition of sound and word patterns in the poem reveal and enhance the poet’s relationship with herself rather than those outside the poem. This empowers the poet, leaving an impression on the reader that whatever violence, hate, or prejudice is brought to the poem, the poet rises above with her words.

Example 2: “Hope” is the thing with feathers (Emily Dickinson)

That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

In this poem, Dickinson adopts the rhyme scheme of ABCB in the first stanza, ABAB in the second stanza, and ABBB in the final stanza. The rhymes of the end lines are not perfect in the poem. However, Dickinson’s use of rhyme as a literary device enhances the meaning of the poem as a whole.

For example, when the poet rhymes “heard” and “Bird,” the sound of the words echoes the symbol of hope as a bird that perpetually sings in the soul. In addition, the rhymes “Sea” and “me” create an image of vastness, both within and without the poet. This imagery creates a sense of fragility for hope as a little bird, and for the poet as well in attempting to explain hope through poetry.

Example 3: The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (Christopher Marlowe)

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;
In this poem, Marlowe utilizes several rhyme forms including slant, eye, and perfect rhymes. The poem’s AABB rhyming scheme with end rhymes lends a musical quality to the piece, as if the shepherd is serenading his love in each stanza. Marlowe invokes many conventions in his poem that are associated with love poetry, such as a pastoral setting with rivers and singing birds. In addition, the poet incorporates symbols of love through flowers, such as roses, posies, and myrtle. Though Marlowe’s poem does not feature perfect rhymes in each of the end lines, his use of rhyme as a literary device brings attention to the musicality, romance, and typical symbols featured in love poetry.