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Exact Rhyme

Exact rhyme is a literary device that’s used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds.

Exact rhymes usually appear at the ends of lines, creating a perfect rhyme scheme. The writer chooses words and arranges their lines of verse around them so that the poem maintains a clear rhyme scheme. Poems with perfect or exact rhymes are usually more musical sounding and give the poem an enjoyable flow.  It can also help a poem stick in a reader’s head, making it easier to remember and memorize. 

Exact Rhyme pronunciation: ex-hact rihm

Exact Rhyme definition and examples


Definition of Exact Rhyme

Exact rhymes are used in poetry and appear at the ends of lines. They are less popular today than they were in the past as writers have evolved away from structured, traditional patterns of poetry. Today, contemporary writers are more likely to use free verse, in which there is no rhyme scheme or metrical pattern, than they are to use a rhyme scheme (much less exact rhyme). When it is used, though, it helps to put special emphasis on particular sounds and words. Readers should walk away from the text knowing which words were the most important. 


Examples of Exact Rhyme in Poetry 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways by Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

This well-loved poem deals with themes of devotion and love. The speaker is Browning herself, and she’s directing her words to her husband, Robert Browning. She spends the lines emphasizing how deep her love is and how over time, it won’t decrease in intensity. Instead, as the years pass, she’ll only grow closer to her husband. Throughout the poem, Browning uses exact rhyme. Here are some lines as an example: 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

Here, it’s easy to find the exact rhymes at the ends of lines. For example, “height,” “sight,” and “light.” The poem’s rhyme scheme is perfect for the content considering that Browning is addressing the subject of love without strife. 

Read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry. 


Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost 

Frost’s ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’ is a good example of a more contemporary poem that uses exact rhymes. Here are the first four lines as an example: 

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Clearly, Frost chose to use exact rhymes at the end of lines one, two, and four. Line three does not rhyme, providing a respite from the perfect pattern. The back and forth, almost alternate rhyme scheme is perfect for this haunting poem. Frost successfully and memorably depicts a speaker’s choice, his interest in the woods, and what the setting (snowy evening outdoors) is like. The first lines of this poem are some of the most commonly quoted in modern English poetry. This mostly due to the fact that they rhyme so perfectly. 

Explore Robert Frost’s poetry.


The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt

In Howitt’s much-loved children’s poem, she uses exact rhymes. Here are a few lines as an example: 

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,

“‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;

The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,

And I have many curious things to shew when you are there.”

“Fly” and “spy” rhyme as do “stair” and “there.” As mentioned above, rhyming in children’s poetry is quite common. It makes these poems more fun to read, easier to remember and pronounce. The pattern of words also helps set the tone for the poem. It’s filled with some dark subject matter, but the rhyming makes it easier for young children to investigate. 

Discover Mary Howitt’s poetry.


Why Do Writers Use Exact Rhyme? 

Writers use exact rhyme when they want to create a perfect, steady rhyme scheme. It can also be used to create euphony and make a poem’s lines generally sound more musical. Today, most exact rhymes appear in children’s poetry. It gives the lines a sing-song-like pattern that’s meant to be fun for children to hear read out loud or to read themselves. Consider nursery rhymes as a good example. But, that doesn’t mean that contemporary writers never use perfect or exact rhyme. It does appear in poems, but the most popular are those which use it sparingly. A few exact rhymes are usually more successful than a poem that’s filled with them. 


Approximate Rhyme 

In addition to exact rhyme, there is also approximate rhyme. This is a kind of rhyme that only partially rhymes. This means that some of the consonant and vowel sounds line up, but not all of them. It is also known as slant rhyme, off rhyme, and near rhyme. Other synonyms include imperfect rhyme and partial rhyme. When it’s used, more words can fit into the rhyme scheme, and the poet has more leeway to change things around. With exact rhyme, the pattern can be quite confining. usually, if a writer wants to change one line, they’re going to have to make significant alternations in regard to which exact rhymes are used. This is not the case with approximate rhyme. 


Related Literary Terms 

  • Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
  • Ballad: a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.
  • Blank Verse: a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
  • Free Verse: lines are unrhymed, and there are no consistent metrical patterns. But, that doesn’t mean it is entirely without structure.
  • Rhyme Scheme of Sonnets: usually conform to one of two different rhyme schemes, those connected to the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan sonnet forms.


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