Masculine rhyme is one of the commonest literary devices used in conventional poetry. It occurs when masculine endings or the stressed syllables at the end of consecutive or alternate lines sound the same. This is also known as a single rhyme. It is because of the fact that the lines end with monosyllabic (containing only a single syllable) words that are stressed, such as “sky” and “fly”; “done” and “gone”; “Green” and “seen”. However, it can also occur in disyllabic words where the second syllable is stressed, like “dis-tressed,” “re-view,” “be-cause,” etc.
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Masculine Rhyme Definition
The rhyming between two stressed monosyllabic words at the end of consecutive lines is called masculine rhyme in poetry.
Masculine rhyme or single rhyme is a common occurrence in conventional poetry, such as sonnets, ballads, lullabies, etc. In verse lines, when the words having a single syllable rhyme together, the poetic technique is called masculine rhyme. A feminine rhyme, in contrast, is the rhyming between unstressed syllables at the end of verse lines. For example, the monosyllabic stressed words (swept–crept and may–lay) are matched with their equivalents in these lines from Christina Rossetti‘s poem ‘After Death’.
The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,
Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept.
Masculine Rhyme Meaning
The term “masculine” is not applied to this particular kind of rhyme in the cultural sense of masculinity, which signifies strength, power, and authority. Rather, the rhyme got its name from French grammar, in which words of masculine gender do not end with mute “e,” “es,” or “ent.” Whereas, the words of feminine grammatical gender typically end with these silent syllables. The distinction between masculine and feminine rhymes became a norm in poetry from the 16th-century onwards.
Examples of Masculine Rhyme in Poetry
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head
In Sonnet 130, Shakespeare heavily uses masculine rhymes. For instance, in these lines, the first and third lines end with monosyllabic stressed words, “sun” and “dun”. Similarly, the second and fourth lines end with “red” and “head”. Each pair is an example of masculine rhyme.
In the following quatrain, Shakespeare uses a disyllabic word, “delight” (de-light) at the end of the third three. It rhymes with the stressed monosyllabic word “white” in the first line. The rest of the lines contain conventional masculine rhyme: “cheeks” and “reeks”.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white.
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more de-light
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
Masculine rhymes also occur in dramas. Consider these lines from the famous Shakespeare monologue ‘All the world’s a stage’:
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm
In these lines from one of the best-known lyrics of Emily Dickinson, readers can find typical masculine endings. The words “heard” and “Bird,” are monosyllabic and stressed. They rhyme too. Similarly, the words “storm” and “warm” rhyme closely. They constitute a masculine rhyme. These monosyllabic words are also stressed while reading.
Explore more Emily Dickinson poems.
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, O’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
This John Donne poem contains the ABBAABBA CDCDEE rhyme scheme, modeled after the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet forms. In the first eight lines or the octave of the poem, Donne uses typical masculine endings alongside masculine rhymes. For instance, the words “you,” “new,” “due,” and “un-true” at the end of lines one, four, five, and eight rhyme. Similarly, the words “mend,” “bend,” “end,” and “de-fend” rhyme at the end of lines two, three, six, and seven.
Check out the best John Donne poems.
Remember me when I am gone a-way,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
The first quatrain of this well-known Christina Rossetti sonnet contains masculine rhymes like the other example quoted above. The first line ends with a disyllabic word “away” and the stress falls on the second syllable. It rhymes with the monosyllabic word “stay” at the end of line four. The words “land” and “hand” form the other masculine rhyming pair. This sonnet addresses a couple’s future and the speaker’s desire to be remembered by her lover.
Explore more Christina Rossetti poems.
Why Do Poets Use Masculine Rhyme?
From the examples quoted above, readers can understand how masculine rhymes create impactful sounds. Especially, the monosyllabic stressed words at the end of poetic lines stay longer in readers’ minds than the unstressed ones. On top of that, poets tend to stress the words that carry the main idea of the line. Using masculine rhymes serves the same purpose. This particular rhyme is also used to create a sing-song-like effect when the text is read aloud.
Masculine Rhyme vs. Feminine Rhyme
The main difference between the two is that masculine rhyme is the rhyming between two stressed words and feminine rhyme is the rhyming between two unstressed syllables at the end of verse lines. Consider the following lines from ‘London, 1802’ by William Wordsworth:
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
In these lines, “hour” and “bower” constitute a feminine rhyme. The monosyllabic words “fen” and “pen” create a masculine rhyme. So, in poetry, both masculine and feminine lines can occur simultaneously without affecting the purposes of one another.
Read more William Wordsworth poems.
When two stressed syllables at the end of consecutive or alternate verse lines sound similar, it is called a masculine rhyme. For example, if two lines end with the monosyllabic words “mend” and “bend,” we can call it a masculine rhyme or single rhyme.
The term “masculine” has nothing to do with the cultural concept of masculinity. It is rather a technical term originating from French grammar. In French, the words of masculine grammatical gender do not have a mute “e,” “es,” or “ent” at their ending. For this reason, the last syllable of these words is stressed in speech. Similarly, in poetry, when the ending of a verse line contains a stressed syllable, it is called a masculine ending. The rhyming between masculine endings is called masculine rhyme.
It is easy to figure out a masculine rhyme in poetry. Typically, masculine rhymes occur in words having one syllable. Rhyme generally occurs at the end of verse lines. If these monosyllabic words are stressed while reading, they constitute masculine rhymes.
Masculine rhyme is the rhyming between masculine endings or the stressed syllables at the end of verse lines. Feminine rhyme occurs when feminine endings or the unstressed syllables at the end of verse lines rhyme together. For example, if there are “sky” and “fly” at the end of two consecutive lines, they constitute a masculine rhyme. In contrast, if there are “number” and “slumber”, they constitute a feminine rhyme.
It is the commonest kind of rhyme in poetry. In verse lines, the stressed monosyllabic words at the end of verse lines create a rhythm while reading. Besides, these words, in most cases, carry important ideas and have a more lasting impression than unstressed ones.
Related Literary Terms
- Rhyme: refers to the repetition of similar-sounding words used in writing.
- Rhyme Scheme: is the pattern of rhyme used in poetry.
- End Rhyme: occurs when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
- Eye Rhyme: occurs when two words are spelled the same but are pronounced differently.
- Internal Rhyme: is the rhyming of words in the middle of a particular line or across multiple lines.
- Imperfect Rhyme: occurs when two words rhyme in part, but not perfectly.
- Watch: Masculine vs. Feminine Rhymes
- Learn: Everything You Need to Know about Rhyme Schemes in Poetry
- Read: How to Write a Sonnet in Seven Simple Steps