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To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme



To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Many poets today believe rhyme is old fashioned, artificial or strained.  Rhyme has a long history in verse which dates back to before the written word.  Stories of love, war, gods and heroes were told through oral traditions and often rhyme was used to assist memory in order that the tale could be passed on.  Since the written word language has evolved and rhyme has become more sophisticated than just a tool for communication, it has become an art form.  Still in much of today's poetry, rhyme has been dismissed or relegated to light verse.  However, the modern day rapper shows us that rhyme with the right rhythm, can be timely, dynamic and powerful. 

Rhyme is "the one chord we have added to the Greek lyre."  Oscar Wilde  It is all about sonics.  There are many variations of "rhyme", which basically is the echo of sound, a melodic link between words most often at the end of the line.  The ancient Welsh in their strict code of meters, taught that to prevent the "main" rhyme from overpowering the line, it should be balanced by  "harmony of sound",  and encouraged the use of alliteration, consonance, assonance, internal rhyme and more, all forms of rhyme

A poem doesn't have to be end rhymed but I listen for "harmony of sound" in every poem I read. 

Rhyme Variables

aicill rhyme  (Commonly used in Celtic verse forms.) According to the NPEOPP aicill rhyme is simply rhyming an end word of one line with a word somewhere early in the next line. Robin Skelton's Shapes of our Singing takes it a step further and states aicill rhyme occurs when the end word of the first line is disyllabic. An on-line source describing Gaelic pronunciation takes it even a step further describing aicill rhyme as occuring when the last stressed syllable of an end word rhymes with the next to last unstressed word in the next line with no mention that the end word need by disyllabic. (Gaelic examples I've been able to find seem to support all 3 definitions, of course I can't really hear the stressed/unstressed definition but one example appeared as if the internal rhyme could be unstressed by the position in the line and the words around it.)
alliteration  (from Latin al litera- to letter) The echoed beginning sound of a stressed syllable with the beginning sound of another stressed syllable in close proximity within the line.  Strictly used,  it should be the stressed syllable of successive words in a line, most commonly repeated consonants that phonetically match e.g. Little ladies like lovely Lillys or Center for Secret Sisters.  However beginning vowel sounds most always alliterate e.g The ant eater entered the exit.
alternate rhyme Rhyme pattern within a stanza, end rhyme change every other line. abab cdcd etc or ababab cdcdcd etc or abababab cdcdcdcd etc . 
apocopated rhyme (Greek- cutting off). Rhyme that cuts off the last syllable or sound. Only part of the word rhymes, come/summer ; timely/rhyme. Or rhyming the penultimate syllables.
amphisbaenic or backward, rhyme Rhyme in reverse. later/retail ; stop/pots.
assonance  A rhetorical device in which vowel sounds are repeated regardless of the consonants before and after. In English this is usually within a line but in other cultures, Welsh and Spanish in particular this can be between internal or end words of different lines.
broken rhyme Breaking an end word to create rhyme with another line. eg. Breaking the word heartbreak carrying the "break" to the next line so that heart can rhyme with part.
caesura rhyme Couplet rhymed at the caesura mid line and alternating at the end of the line as if an alternate rhymed quatrain abab is written as a couplet.
caudate rhyme Same as tail rhyme, the short line at the end of the stanza rhymes with another short line within the stanza, with longer lines in between.
chain rhyme Rhyme pattern within a stanza, interlocking rhyme that links one stanza to the next. Such as in the Terza Rima rhyme aba bcb cdc etc. There are various chain techniques with a long history
climbing or step rhyme rhyme that moves in or out one syllable per line, the pattern is at the discretion of the poet
x x x a
x x a x
x a x x
a x x x
x a x x
x x a x                                                          
consonance, imperfect rhyme / near rhyme, oblique rhyme / off rhyme / slant rhyme Echoed consonant sounds but different vowel sounds as in season and raisin or sometimes only the last consonant sound such as fame and room. This is a simplified meaning, definitions of consonance or slant rhyme seem to wander all over the place. For a more complicated definition see "consonate". also slant rhyme. "He whispered into the dark, dank heart of the night" The prominent and repeated "d" "t" and "k" sounds are consonance.
consonant rhyme Same consonant sound at either the beginning of the lines (head rhyme) or the last consonant at the end of the line (common in Celtic and Spanish verse).
cross rhyme When the end word rhymes with a word in the middle of the next line. This comes from the old long hemistiched couplets in which rhyme occurs (ab)(ba): L1 xxxa,xxxb L2 xxxb,xxxa. NPEOPP.
double rhyme When both syllables of a 2 syllable word rhyme with both syllables of another 2 syllable word. e.g. dapper / rapper
dunadh Beginning and ending the poem with the same syllable, word or line bringing the poem full circle. (A defining feature of ancient Celtic poetry.) 
envelope rhyme Rhyme pattern within a stanza, rhyme enclosed within a stanza. e.g. abba or abccba or abcddcba.
exact / full / identical ordinary / perfect/ strict / true rhyme The echo of vowel and consonant sounds, in English rhyme occurs between stressed syllables.     bait / wait, begin / sin,  syllable / laughable
eye or sight rhyme Rhyme that has the same spelling but sound differently. e.g. laughter / daughter idea/flea
feminine rhyme

A rhyme of 2 or more syllables in which the stress is on other than the last syllable such as
moral / quarrel or healthiest / wealthiest

framed rhyme or para-rhyme Consonance occurring front and back of the word. back/bike  boat/bait
half rhyme Feminine or three-syllable words in which the initial stressed syllables rhyme but not the unstressed syllables e.g. clingy / singing
head rhyme When rhyme appears at the beginning of the line in the first word or syllable rather than at the end of the line.
head and tail rhyme First and last, usually referring to the first and last word in a line are rhymed.
identity rhyme / rime riche /  rich rhyme Ordinary rhyme beginning a step backward. The sounds start being matched before the last stressed vowel. All 3 sounds of the syllable are echoed in rich rhyme, as in foul/fowl as compared to ordinary rhyme growl/fowl. Rich rhyme, often called rime riche or identity rhyme is more commonly used in French prosody than in English.
interlaced rhyme A word in the middle of one line rhymes with a word in the middle of another.
internal rhyme A word within a line rhymes with another word within the line whether or not it is at the end of the line.
Leonine rhyme A line written with 2 syllable rhyme midway and at the end of the line. Originally employed to rhyme at a midway caesura and line end, found in ancient Latin writing. "They took some honey and plenty of money."---- Edward Lear, Owl and the Pussycat.
light rhyme The rhyming of a stressed syllable with an unstressed syllable, like some / ransom
linked or run-over rhyme> end word of one line rhyming with the first word of the next line in a chain like effect. Also a rhyme from one stanza being carried over into next stanza such as aba bcb cdc etc
masculine rhyme Rhyme in a 1 syllable word or on the accented last syllable of a multi syllable word.
mono-rhyme Rhyme pattern, single rhyme within a verse or stanza. aaaaaaa or stanza aaaa bbbb cccc etc.
Nursery rhyme Rhymed verse meant for children.
reverse rhyme Echoed sounds of the first consonant and stressed vowel but not the last consonant.  bat / back
sectional rhyme Internal rhyme within the line. e.g.:she'd be his wife, his life in song.
spelling rhyme End words that have similar spelling but don't rhyme. move/love .
tail rhyme In a stanza of long lines, the last line is shorter and is rhymed with one other line within the stanza which is also shorter.
triple rhyme words that rhyme in 3 syllables eg mystery / history .
tumbling rhyme Mono-rhymed lines until the rhyme runs out of energy then the lines switch to a new mono-rhymed series.



Recommended Comments

For me, rhyme is another device, a tool the poet has at his disposal. I rhyme when I want to, but very often I don't.


... Still in much of today's poetry, rhyme has been dismissed or relegated to light verse.  However, the modern day rapper shows us that rhyme with the right rhythm, can be timely, dynamic and powerful ...

So true. Some of the most clever use of rhyme, simile, and metaphor can be found in rap.

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Terry L shuff


I had no idea there is so much to learn about rhyme.  thanks for this article.  I'll be studying this for  long time.

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