Rhyme Scheme and Lack of Rhyme Scheme

Rhyme is the correspondence of sound between two or more words in a piece of writing. Traditionally, it’s been an integral part of poetry and is therefore crucial to understand when exploring the form as a whole.

When you think about rhyming in poetry, it’s likely you’re imagining perfect rhymes at the end of lines of verse. But, there are other kinds of rhymes as well. Below, you can explore a few of the types of rhymes found in poetry and then go on to consider how they’re used in patterns.

Types of Rhymes

  • Full rhyme: also known as a perfect rhyme. These rhymes share the same number of syllables and the same assonance.
  • Half-rhyme: also known as slant, imperfect, and near rhyme. This rhyme is formed by words that are not identical but are similar in assonance and/or the number of syllables.
  • Internal rhyme: rhymes that appear in the middle of lines rather than at the end of lines.
  • Masculine rhyme: a rhyme between the final stressed syllables of two lines.
  • Feminine rhyme: a multi-syllable rhyme where stressed and unstressed syllables rhyme. For example, the words “measles” and “weasels.”
  • Eye rhyme: words that look like they’re going to rhyme but don’t when they’re spoken or read. For example, “hour” and “pour.”
  • End rhymes: rhymes that occur between the final words on two lines of poetry. They can be feminine or masculine.

What is a Rhyme Scheme?

Now that you know what rhyme is, it’s time to put those ideas together and create rhyme schemes. The word “scheme” refers to the pattern of rhyme a poet uses in their poetry. If a poem has a rhyme scheme, that means that a certain number of words rhyme with one another. These words are found at the ends of each line of verse. For example, the first, third, and fifth lines of a six-line stanza might rhyme, and the second, fourth, and sixth might rhyme as well. This would create a pattern that looks like ABABAB (known as an alternating rhyme scheme).

Some rhyme schemes, such as the alternating rhyme scheme, are quite simple and easy to spot. Others are more complex and can even change from stanza to stanza. Below, you can explore some possible rhyme schemes poets choose from when writing.

List of Rhyme Schemes

This is not a complete list of rhyme schemes, but it does include a few of the most popular patterns and poems that utilize them. There is an infinite number of possible patterns a writer might use, and they won’t always fall into a specific category.

  • Petrarchan/Italian Sonnet: uses iambic pentameter and rhymes ABBAABBA with possible ending sestets, which include CDCDCD and CDECDE. For example, John Milton‘s When I Consider How My Light is Spent’and these 10 Famous Petrarcahn Poems.
  • Shakespearean Sonnet: uses iambic pentameter and rhymes ABABCDCDEFEFGG. For example, Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day‘ by William Shakespeare.
  • Ballade: contains three stanzas and uses the rhyme scheme ABABBCBC.
  • Monorhyme: every line uses the same rhyme scheme, AAAA, etc.
  • Alternate Rhyme: the first and third lines of a stanza rhyme and the second and fourth lines rhyme, ABAB.  This is used in poems with four or eight-line stanzas—for example, the first lines of Neither Out Far not in Deep‘ by Robert Frost.
  • Limerick: a five-line poem that uses the rhyme scheme AABBA.
  • Villanelle: a nineteen-line poem that rhymes A1bA2, abA1, abA2, abA1, abA2, abA1A2. For example, Mad Girl’s Love Song‘ by Sylvia Plath.
  • Terza Rima: uses sets of three lines and an interlocking rhyme scheme of ABA CBC CDC DED. Famously used in Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy.’
  • Enclosed rhyme: uses a rhyme scheme of ABBA.
  • Triplet: uses a rhyme scheme of AAA in sets of three. For example, Upon Julia’s Clothes‘ by Robert Herrick.
  • Couplet: uses a rhyme scheme of AA in sets of two. For example, A Poison Tree‘ by William Blake.
  • Keats’ Odes rhyme: follows a pattern of ABABCDECDE. For example, Ode on a Grecian Urn‘ by John Keats.

Many of these rhyme schemes are going to be explored in greater detail in the following lessons.

Do Poems Always Rhyme?

No, poems don’t always rhyme. As you learned in the introduction to this course, poetry encompasses poems that rhyme and those that have no discernible rhyme scheme at all. If a poem does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern (explored in the next section of this course) then it is written in free verse.

Writing in free verse is incredibly popular within contemporary poetry. It allows poets to explore sound, pattern, literary devices, and more without the restrictions of a specific rhyme scheme.

A few popular free verse poems are:

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