Assonance occurs when two or more words that are close to one another use the same vowel sound. These words also use different consonant sounds. Consonance is the opposite of assonance. It is the repetition of consonant sounds within lines of verse or prose. In some cases, it has an even greater impact on the rhythm than assonance does because of its sharper, harder sounds. It is often used to create a steady rhythm, one that feels more like marching than flowing.
Purpose of Assonance
Writers of both poetry and prose can use this technique. It is used to add rhythm and musicality to a poem or story. The lines read more fluidly with a line of unity, that of a similar sound, running through them. This is one of several literary techniques that’s employed for the enhancement of sound. In the simplest terms, when read lines that contain assonance are more pleasing to the ear than those that don’t.
Examples of Assonance
Example #1 Daffodils by William Wordsworth
‘Daffodils’ also known as ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ was published by William Wordsworth in 1807. It is commonly considered to be one of, if not the, most famous poem of the Romantic Movement in English literature. Its history is well-known, as Wordsworth described being inspired to write the poem have taking a walk with his sister and seeing a line of daffodils growing freely. It is also a great example of how assonance can impact the mood and rhythm of a text. Take a look at these lines:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
The last two lines, in particular, are good examples. Consider the long “e” sounding “beneath,” “trees,” and “breeze”. There is another example the second line with “floats” and “o’er” with the repetition of the “o” sound. The same sound appears again in the fourth line of this stanza with “host” and “golden”. This repetition creates a kind of internal rhyme known as half-rhyme. It makes a great deal of sense in this particular piece due to the peaceful, wistful mood that Wordsworth was looking for.
Example #2 Eat Me by Patience Agbabi
A less obvious but still important example, this contemporary piece poetry uses assonance a few times within its ten stanzas. The poem takes the reader through the life of an unnamed female speaker who is constantly fed by her partner. He wants nothing more than for her to grow as large as possible. Take a look at the third stanza of the poem:
Then he asked me to get up and walk
Round the bed so he could watch by broad
Belly wobble, hips judder like a juggernaut.
In these lines, each line ends with “walk,” “broad” and “juggernaut”. These words are rhyme through assonance with the repetition of the “awh” sound in each word. The word “wobble” in the third line can also be included in this assonant strand. When one starts paying attention to the use of assonance and consonance in poetry it is hard to stop seeing it. Internal rhymes pop up all over the lines, for example, “me” and ”he” in lines one and two of this section.
Example #3 Little Blue Boy by Mother Goose
‘Little Boy Blue’ was first published in Tommy Thumb’s Little Song Book in the year 1744 but scholars assume that the song is much older than that. Children’s poetry, more often than not, leans heavily on rhyme, sound, and rhythm in order to embellish the text. These songs are usually read out loud and therefore the assonance, consonance, internal, and end rhymes are incredibly important. They make the lines all the more engaging for a young audience. Here are lines one through four:
Little boy blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow,
The cow’s in the corn
For example, the “o” vowel sound found in “boy,” “blow,” and “meadow”. Here are lines seven and eight:
He’s under a haystack,
Pay attention to the words “haystack” and “fast” in these lines. The “a” sound repeats. The same can be said for the long “e” sound in “He’s” and “asleep”.