Effect of Rhyming in Poetry

Rhyme serves several purposes within poetry. Within this lesson, we’ll explore a few of the reasons a poet might choose to use rhyme and what the effect of those choices is.

Creates a structure

First and foremost rhyme creates a structure that poets can write within. Many of these structures have important historical origins. Writers are often interested in alluding to these histories through the format of their writing. (For example, writing a Shakespearean sonnet inherently connects a poem back to Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets.) Some writers enjoy the challenge of writing in a particular form and what it requires of them. Sonnet writing presents its own challenges, as does the rhyme scheme and pattern of a villanelle, terza rima poem, and more. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s use of the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet form in Sonnet 14is a good example.

Creates unity

Unity is another reason a poet might use a rhyme scheme. It immediately connects one line to the next. If a poem follows a rhyme scheme of ABCABC consistently, then the reader is going to know what to expect. This kind of pattern is an easy way to ensure that each line works towards a common purpose. (It should be noted that this kind of unity is also a reason poets avoid using rhyme.)

Increases the musicality

Musicality is a term that’s often associated with rhyme schemes. When used consistently, or even fairly consistently, rhyme schemes give poems a musical quality that usually makes them more pleasing to read or hear read aloud. Poems like The Ravenby Edgar Allan Poe and I now had only to retraceby Charlotte Brontë are good examples of how musical-sounding verse can improve a reader’s experience with a poem.

Convey a tone or mood

Rhyme can also be used to convey a specific tone or mood. If the pattern is consistent and fairly simple, it’s likely going to come across as upbeat and direct. But, if there are sudden breaks in the pattern, or if many half-rhymes and eye rhymes are used, it might sound discordant and uncertain. ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe is an interesting example. The poem follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCB and has a very distinctive tone. It celebrates the speaker’s love but then transitions into mourning its passing. What started out as a fairy tale-esque story becomes something more haunting.

As a very different example, you might consider Dirty Faceby Shel Silverstein and its consistent AABBCC pattern.