Consonance is usually connected with poetic verse. It is one of several techniques that utilize sound in order to create added emphasis on the rhyme and rhythm of a particular poem. But, it is not solely used in poetry. There are examples of it in prose as well.
Consonance is often defined alongside assonance. The two are connected but inherently different. Assonance refers to the repetition of a vowel sounds. They both date back to examples in Middle English. poets throughout the world, in all languages, use consonance. It can be found in some of the greatest poetry the English language has ever seen, such as in the works of William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Wilfred Owen, as well as in more contemporary poetry. Even children’s poetry, such as they by Shel Silverstein utilize the techniques.
While consonance is used in several different forms of writing it is most effective when it comes to poetry. Writers who employ standard rhyme schemes and metrical patterns as well as those who are engaged with more experimental forms and freezers are liable to use consonants. It is helpful to riders in that it’s able to create the feeling of rhythm without the poet actually having to structure the palm in a particular metrical pattern. The same can be said for rhyme. It adds a lyrical feeling to the pond that might not otherwise exist. Plus, examples can also be found in song lyrics.
The words are interconnected in a way that is not entirely obvious to those who are unfamiliar with the technique. Like many other techniques, this particular literary device can be used to draw emphasis to a particular passage word or phrase. By using a consonant sound numerous times in a row, the poet will be able to ensure that the reader notices that line or sentence more so than the ones surrounding it.
Consonance is also used to mimic sounds, it can appear in onomatopoeic phrases and tongue twisters. For example, “clitter clatter” or “pitter patter”.
Common examples of consonance include the repetition of the “g,” “m,” “k,” and “p” sounds.
Examples of Consonance in Poetry
Example #1 The Tyger by William Blake
‘The Tyger’ is perhaps Blake’s most famous poem. It is certainly one of his most studied. It was published in 1794 in Songs of Experience. In it, a close reader can find examples of consonance. Take a look at the first two lines of the poem and see if you can spot the repeated consonant sounds:
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
The “r” sound is repeated in “Tyger,” “burning,” “bright” in the first line and in the second line, “forests”. The “t” sound is also used multiple times, in “Tyger,” “bright,” ” forests,” and “night”. This choice on Blake’s part allows the words to increase the rhythm in his already very steady rhyme scheme and metrical pattern. Here is the third stanza where there are a few more examples:
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
The steadiness of the rhythm starts to mimic the heartbeat that is mentioned in these very lines. It feels as though something is building up, ready to show off its strength. Here, there is an even more obvious repetition of words including hard “t,” “b” and “d” consonants.
Discover William Blake’s poetry.
Example #2 Out, Out by Robert Frost
One of Frost’s best poem, ‘Out Out’ is a disturbing narrative about a boy who gets his hand cut off and can’t quite believe its happened to him. Take a look at the first three lines of this poem for examples of consonance:
The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
Here, there are good examples with the repetition of the “s” consonant sound as well as “d” and “t”.
Read more of Robert Frost’s poetry.
One of Shakespeare’s famous Fair Youth sonnets, ‘Sonnet 64,’ uses personification in order to describe the way that time consumes everything it creates. Here are three lines from the final quatrain of the sonnet:
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
It is easy to spot the repetition of the “s” consonant sound in all three lines of this excerpt. There are also examples of the repetition of the “l,” and “d” sounds.
Explore William Shakespeare’s poetry.
Consonance in Old English Verse
Alliterative meter is most common in Old English poetry and literature stemming from the Germanic languages. Often, the term “alliterative poetry” is used rather than an alliterative meter. Some of the most famous Old English poems use alliterative verse. It depends on the use of consonant sounds to create rhythm and unity. Consider these lines from Beowulf:
Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah
It’s easy to see, despite the use of Old English, how common alliteration and consonance were.
The purpose is the create the feeling of rhyme throughout a poem. It can align words and make specific passages more effective.
example, multiple words in a line that start with “h” or “k.” Or, if every line of a poem starts with the same consonant sound, etc.
Related Literary Terms
- Alliteration: a technique that makes use of repeated sound at the beginning of multiple words, grouped together. It is used in poetry and prose.
- Assonance: occurs when two or more words that are close to one another use the same vowel sound.
- Cacophony: the combination of loud and harsh-sounding words.
- Dissonance: a lack of harmony in elements of writing, usually created through varied vowel sounds.
- Onomatopoeia: a word that imitates the natural sound of a thing.
- Listen: What are Assonance and Consonance?
- Watch: Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance
- Listen: What’s the Difference – Assonance vs. Consonance