Couplets Poems

Couplets are two-line stanzas that usually rhyme and have a consistent meter. They are one of the simplest and most common forms of poetry.

Couplets can stand alone as a complete poem or be used in longer poetic works. The rhyming scheme can vary, with AA, BB, or ABAB common patterns. Couplets are versatile and can be used for various purposes, from lighthearted humor to profound reflections.

Due to their succinct nature, couplets are effective for delivering witty punchlines or encapsulating profound truths. They are often found in traditional nursery rhymes, epigrams, and heroic couplets in longer narrative poems or satirical works.

Portrait of Zimri

by John Dryden

‘Portrait of Zimri’ by John Dryden is a political satire that showcases how people in power can be consumed by hollow and pretentious self interest.

This poem uses heroic couplets in a very effective manner. A very unmelodic theme, like politics, has been made palatable through the use of lyrical couplets. The aabbcc form gives it a very musical texture.

Some of their chiefs were princes of the land:

In the first rank of these did Zimri stand:

A man so various, that he seem'd to be

Not one, but all Mankind's Epitome.


Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness

by Alexander Pope

‘Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog’ is a humorous, playful, and extremely concise poem that presents the dog’s feelings of superiority.

The entire poem is contained within a single rhyming couplet, mirroring the sparsity of words one would expect to find written upon a small dog collar.

I am his Highness' dog at Kew;

Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Corinna’s Going A-Maying

by Robert Herrick

‘Corinna’s Going A-Maying’ is a carpe diem (Latin for “seize the day”) poem in which the speaker urges his beloved, Corinna, to arise from bed and join him in the festivities of May Day already in progress.

This poem uses couplets throughout its five stanzas of 14 lines each. Couplets are deployed effectively by Robert Herrick to bring a quality of musicality to the poem. Couplets are a relatively simple rhyme scheme that do not require the reader to wait for hardly any time to hear a particular rhyme.

Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne

Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.

See how Aurora throwes her faire

Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:

The Quilting

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

‘The Quilting’ by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a very short love poem that reveals the speaker’s growing affection for a woman named Dolly.

If you are looking for a brief example of couplet form, this is the perfect poem to learn from. While this poem is brief, it incorporates couplets to illustrate the disjointed pairings within the poem. For example, the rhyme illustrates the stitch pattern of the quilt that Dolly works on and also strengthens the theme of love and affection within the poem.

Dolly sits a–quilting by her mother, stitch by stitch,

Gracious, how my pulses throb, how my fingers itch,

No Man Without Money

by Robert Herrick

‘No Man Without Money’ by Robert Herrick is a short poem that lucidly voices the belief that people only succeed because of chance and circumstance.

Herrick's poems were often short and as such he wrote many couplets. This poem reveals his ability to condense a number of ideas into just two lines of verse. The speaker makes profound elucidations on everything from personal successes to the value of understanding we are not solely responsible for them. It is a short but powerful poem that expresses its wisdom succinctly.

No man such rare parts hath, that he can swim,

If favour or occasion help not him.

Teddy Bear

by Alan Alexander Milne

In ‘Teddy Bear,’ the titular stuffed bear frets about his chubby body. A chance encounter with a plump passerby helps Teddy realize that fat men can still be held in high esteem, giving him newfound confidence about his appearance.

This poem is composed of 13 stanzas of four rhyming couplets each. This rhyme scheme adds a playful, sing-song quality to the verse that matches its subject matter.

A bear, however hard he tries,

Grows tubby without exercise.

Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,

Which is not to be wondered at;

The Badger

by John Clare

‘The Badger’ by John Clare is a narrative poem that portrays the cruelty and danger that animals face in the natural world.

This poem is written in what is known as heroic couplets. This means the poem's lines are a specific form of rhyming couplets in which each pair of lines consists of iambic pentameter, meaning that each line has ten syllables with the stress falling on every second syllable. This is a good, although a not well-known, example of the form.

When midnight comes a host of dogs and men

Go out and track the badger to his den,

And put a sack within the hole, and lie

Till the old grunting badger passes by.


by John Dryden

‘Dreams’ by John Henry Dryden presents a vivid illustration of the ways in which dreams are steeped in paradox and irrationality.

This is a beautiful poem composed of rhyming heroic couplets. In using this form, Dryden aids in elevating the speaker's journey through the inner mind into a kind of epic. One that injects some much-needed orientation in their exploration of the farcical world of dreams, organizing the poem around discernible images that emphasize the bizarre experiences encountered within them.

Dreams are but interludes which Fancy makes;

When monarch Reason sleeps, this mimic wakes:

Compounds a medley of disjointed things,

A mob of cobblers, and a court of kings:

The Wound

by Ruth Stone

‘The Wound’ by Ruth Stone describes with unflinching detail the harmful ways in which some words can inflict lasting hurt.

Stone structures her poem into couplets, splitting up her often brief and short poetic narratives into these succinct two-verse images and impressions. She also employs enjambment, which keeps the poem flowing into each successive stanza. Yet the decision to use couplets punctuates her already hard-hitting lines with even more effect. Leading to a powerfully emotional experience when reading the poem.

The shock comes slowly

as an afterthought.

First you hear the words

and they are like all other words,


by Hilaire Belloc

‘Fatigue’ uses humor in order to subvert the readers’ expectations of a poet and their ambitions by seeming to value money over love and art.

The single couplet offers a degree of finality and certainty to mirror the simple and unequivocal nature of the poem's message. It is also suggestive of the poem's content that the poet is tired of being creative.

I'm tired of Love: I'm still more tired of Rhyme.

But Money gives me pleasure all the time.

Explore more Couplets poems


by Ena Hawken

‘Bunnies’ by Ena Hawken is a light-hearted poem zooming in on one natural trait of rabbits. The poem caters to children with its short retainable stanzas, rhyme, and meter akin to that of a nursery rhyme. By its nature of telling of bunnies, the poem is also regarded as an Easter poem.

This poem is written in a set of two couplets. Hawken purposely writes in this fashion, also employing rhymes and rhythm to make the poem easily recitable and retainable for kids, her target audience. The structure makes the poem more entertaining for adults as well.

Every little bunny

Has a habit that is funny.



by Oscar Wilde

‘Ravenna’ by Oscar Wilde is the poet’s recollection of a trip to the culturally and historically important Italian city of Ravenna.

The entirety of this long poem is written in rhyming couplets. This relatively simple rhyming scheme allows Wilde to more easily call attention to the rhymes he employs, as the reader does not have to wait long before finding the rhyming pair.

A year ago I breathed the Italian air,

And yet, methinks this northern Spring is fair,

These fields made golden with the flower of March,

The throstle singing on the feathered larch,

Somebody’s Mother

by Mary Dow Brine

‘Somebody’s Mother’ by Mary Dow Brine is a heartbreaking and heartwarming poem about caring for strangers.

This poem is composed of couplets, or sets of two lines. It uses perfectly rhymed lines that are easy to read and very consistent in their use of rhyming words.

The woman was old and ragged and gray

And bent with the chill of the Winter's day.


The street was wet with a recent snow

And the woman's feet were aged and slow.

The Measures Taken

by Erich Fried

‘The Measures Taken’ by Erich Fried is a powerful piece about war and loss. The reader is asked to consider their concepts of good, evil, and who deserves to live throughout the poem. 

This poem is written in rhyming couplets, which gives the poem a sense of structure and formality. The use of couplets can also be seen as a reflection of the poem's themes of order and control, particularly in the context of war.

The lazy are slaughtered

the world grows industrious

The ugly are slaughtered

the world grows beautiful


The Old Vicarage, Grantchester

by Rupert Brooke

‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ is a light poem about a homesick traveler sentimentally remembering his former home in the English town of Grantchester. The poem takes a gently satirical tone to its subject matter.

All of this long poem is made up of rhyming couplets in iambic tetrameter. Even when two lines are broken apart by the end of a stanza, the scheme of couplets is retained across the bridge from the first stanza to the next. The relatively simple poetic form of couplets works well in this light, amusing poem.

Just now the lilac is in bloom,

All before my little room;

And in my flower-beds, I think,

Smile the carnation and the pink;

Maud Muller

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘Maud Muller’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a classic narrative ballad that recounts how the poor peasant, Maud, and an urban judge fantasize about getting married and living together. However, neither of them ever takes action, which fills their lives with regret.

Using couplets in this poem provides a formal and structured feel. The couplets can introduce a musical quality, helping to reinforce the overall theme and mood of the poem.

God pity them both! and pity us all,

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

To a Highland Girl

by William Wordsworth

‘To a Highland Girl’ by Wordsworth celebrates the beauty and innocence of the girl, her harmonious connection to nature.

This poem is written in couplets. Each stanza of the poem consists of rhymed couplets, where two lines are paired together with end rhymes. While the poem doesn't strictly adhere to a consistent meter, the use of couplets provides a sense of structure and balance to the poem. The rhymed couplets help to create a musical quality and enhance the overall flow and coherence of the poem.

Sweet Highland Girl, a very shower

Of beauty is thy earthly dower!

Twice seven consenting years have shed

Their utmost bounty on thy head:

A Child’s Garden

by Rudyard Kipling

‘A Child’s Garden’ by Rudyard Kipling is written from the perspective of a young sick boy who is dreaming of escaping his confining and frightening life by taking to the sky in an airplane.

Now there is nothing wrong with me

Except -- I think it's called T.B.

And that is why I have to lay

Out in the garden all the day.

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

by Mary Frye

‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ by Mary Frye was written out of heartfelt compassion, and it has resonated with millions of people experiencing loss and grief.

Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

The Changeling

by Charlotte Mew

‘The Changeling’ by Charlotte Mew is a unique poem told from the perspective of a child who thinks she’s a fairy and longs to return to the fairy world. 

The poem is, in part, structured in couplets, with each stanza containing sets of rhyming lines. This rhyme scheme adds a musical quality to the verses and creates a sense of rhythmic continuity. The couplets contribute to the poem's narrative flow, as well.

Toll no bell for me, dear Father, dear Mother,

Waste no sighs;

There are my sisters, there is my little brother

Who plays in the place called Paradise,


Easter Hymn

by A. E. Housman

‘Easter Hymn’ by A. E. Houseman unearths the contradictions between religious teachings and their implementation. The poet is juxtaposing biblical moments of violence with modern ones to highlight the incomplete nature of Christ’s promise to save humanity from itself.

Although not written entirely in iambic pentameter, the poem is stylized as a heroic couplet. One that focuses on Jesus Christ as a historical and religious figure.

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,

You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,

Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright

Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night

I Was Made Erect and Lone

by Henry David Thoreau

‘I Was Made Erect and Lone’ by Henry David Thoreau is a poem about trusting in your own individual autonomy.

The couplets that make up the poem lend an uplifting cadence that contributes to its didactic tone. They are made even more impactful through the poet's use of perfect rhymes and the repetition of words at the beginning of the lines, like "If age choose."

I was made erect and lone,

And within me is the bone;

Still my vision will be clear,

Still my life will not be drear,

Before She Died

by Karen Chase

‘Before She Died’ by Karen Chase is a poem about how someone’s death, or impending death, changes the way that one understands the world. 

In addition to free verse, this poem is divided into couplets or sets of two lines. The poem contains five couplets in total, making it a ten-line poem.

When I look at the sky now, I look at it for you.

As if with enough attention, I could take it in for you.

With all the leaves gone almost from

the trees, I did not walk briskly through the field.


by Hannah More

‘Slavery’ by Hannah More is a pro-abolitionist poem. It attempts to inspire Britain at the peak of slave trade to condemn the very act. The poem makes a case for the abolition of slavery by exposing Britain’s immorality and appealing to the public’s humanity.

While the entirety of 'Slavery' is not a couplet, the poem of two hundred and ninety-four lines is made up of one hundred and forty-seven couplets. More intentionally uses these rhyming couplets, alongside the poem's meter, to balance out the seriousness of the poem.

Let Malice strip them of each other plea,

They still are men, and men should still be free.

Insulted Reason loathes the inverted trade —

Loathes, as she views the human purchase made;

The Barefoot Boy

by John Greenleaf Whittier

‘The Barefoot Boy’ by John Greenleaf Whittier is a highly relatable poem that speaks on universal themes of aging and the beauty and joy of youth. The poem celebrates a young boy’s freedom and mourns the coming of age. 

This poem uses rhyming couplets to structure its long stanzas. The poem's AABBCC rhyme scheme is easy to find and gives the poem an upbeat, passionate, and song-like rhythm that adds to the subject matter.

Blessings on thee, little man,

Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!

With thy turned-up pantaloons,

And thy merry whistled tunes;

Elegy V: His Picture

by John Donne

‘Elegy V’ by John Donne is addressed to the poet’s lover. He asks her to accept him when he returns, despite the fact that he’s going to look and act differently.

Here take my picture; though I bid farewell

Thine, in my heart, where my soul dwells, shall dwell.

'Tis like me now, but I dead, 'twill be more

When we are shadows both, than 'twas before.

How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix

by Robert Browning

‘How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’ by Robert Browning depicts three riders’ attempting to gallop from Ghent to Aix. The speaker makes it there, delivering a critical, although unknown, piece of news.

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;

I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;

‘Good speed!'’ cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;

‘Speed!’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;

Love Among the Ruins

by Robert Browning

‘Love Among the Ruins’ by Robert Browning is a Victorian, dramatic poem that uses the metaphor of a destroyed city to speak on love and nature. 

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,

Miles and miles

On the solitary pastures where our sheep



by Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin’s poem, ‘Money,’ is a powerful critique of the consumerist culture inherent in modern society through the personification of money itself.

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