Closed couplets usually appear at the end of stanzas or, more commonly, at the end of poems. It is quite common to see a closed couplet used at the end of a Shakespearean sonnet. This includes those actually written by William Shakespeare as well as sonnets that use the form that he popularized (an example can be explored below).
Explore the Closed Couplet
Closed Couplet Definition
A closed couplet is a pair of grammatically complete lines that stand on their own. It is also possible to find examples of closed couplets that may not be grammatically perfect, but their content makes sense on its own.
For example, a reader could only read these two lines, perhaps at the end or in the middle of a poem, and understand what they mean.
Often, poets use closed couplets in order to make particularly effective statements stand out in their poems. For example, a poet might bring a stanza to its conclusion by using a concise and meaningful closed couplet. Because the two lines stand on their own, they are more likely to stick out and remain in the reader’s mind after they have finished the piece. Sometimes, a poet might use a closed couplet to summarize what they’ve said before or convey the moral of their poem as it draws to a close.
Examples of Closed Couplets in Poems
‘Sonnet 18,’ also known as ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,’ is one of William Shakespeare’s best-known poems. The piece suggests that the speaker’s lover is beyond the comparisons used by other poets. They are more lovely than a summer’s day, and their complexion is fairer and more beautiful than anything it could be compared to. Here are the last lines:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The final two lines of the poem are a closed couplet. They make sense on their own, make use of iambic pentameter, and create a meaningful ending to the poem. They also both include examples of end-stopped punctuation.
Read more William Shakespeare poems.
‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer is made up of twelve lines separated into six sets of two lines, or couplets. They can be seen in this consistent rhyme scheme of aa bb cc dd ee aa. Consider these lines:
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
In these three examples of couplets, the first and third are open, and the second is closed. Although it is not perfectly grammatically correct, each statement is end-stopped.
Read more Joyce Kilmer poems.
This interesting piece is made entirely of couplets. The couplets also follow a consistent rhyme scheme, all of them using perfect rhymes. The poem describes the realities of life in universal terms and lessens their impact by emphasizing their repetitive nature. Here are the first three couplets:
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
Each couplet in this poem can be read on its own. The statements are grammatically correct and make sense, content-wise, on their own. They also all rhyme and are similar in length.
Discover more Ella Wheeler Wilcox poems.
An open couplet means that the first line of a couplet continues into the second without indicating an end stop. A closed couple is the opposite. Whether the punctuation is a comma, period, question mark, or something else, there is punctuation after the first line.
A couplet is a set of two lines in poetry. These are often rhymed, but they do not have to be. Sometimes they use the same metrical pattern and are on their own an interesting set of lines or statements. But, there are many variations that poets can use.
Couplets are used for the same reason that a poet might use another poetic form in their writing. Couplets are two-line stanzas or sets of two lines that stand apart from those around them. Due to their separation, however, the poet chooses to use them; they are often used to convey more effective, short statements.
Related Literary Terms
- Broken Rhyme: an interesting type of rhyme that occurs when a poet cuts a word in half to create a rhyme.
- End Rhyme: a common type of rhyme found in poetry. They occur when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
- End-Stopped Line: a pause that occurs at the end of a line of poetry. It might conclude a phrase or sentence.
- Exact Rhyme: a literary device that’s used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds.
- Enjambment: occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point.