A mosaic rhyme is a special type of rhyme. Unlike perfect end rhymes or imperfect rhymes, it does not occur between two words. Rather, it occurs between a multisyllabic word and two or three monosyllabic words. That’s why it is called a mosaic rhyme as the rhyme is formed by a combination of small pieces of sound fused together in order to sound with the ending of a word with several syllables. It is not a common occurrence in literature where we find two or more words rhyming with a single word. Writers use this rhyme for comic purposes.
Mosaic rhyme pronunciation: mow-zay-ik raim
Explore Mosaic Rhyme
Mosaic Rhyme Definition
A mosaic rhyme is a type of feminine or dactylic rhyme that occurs when a polysyllabic word rhymes with two or more words.
When one or two short words, such as “know” and “it,” are pieced together to rhyme with a single word, such as “poet,” it is called a mosaic rhyme, sometimes also called a compound rhyme. In this rhyme, a single word containing two or more syllables is somehow made to rhyme with two or more words (not syllables) to create a comic effect. Let’s take these words, “win” and “her” and try to rhyme them with the word “thinner.” This rhyming definitely amuses readers who are familiar with perfect rhymes, such as “play” and “clay”; “new” and “few”.
Feminine or double rhymes and dactylic or triple rhymes are sometimes realized as mosaic rhymes. In those cases, a word already in double rhyme or triple rhyme with another word is rhymed with two or more words, like how the polysyllabic word “intellectual” rhymes with “you all.”
Examples of Mosaic Rhymes in Poetry
The Perfect Husband by Ogden Nash
He tells you when you’ve got on
too much lipstick
And helps you with your girdle
when your hips stick.
In the comic verse of Ogden Nash, we can find the use of mosaic rhymes. Consider this humorous piece in which Nash rhymes the disyllabic word “lip-stick” with two separate words, “hips” and “stick.” If the latter words are read altogether, it humorously rhymes with the word “lipstick”. Also, consider the meaning of the words. It would give you a hearty laugh.
Read more Ogden Nash poems.
The Axolotl by Ogden Nash
I never saw an axolotl
But Harvard has one in a bottle
Where Lizzie Borden took an axolotl
And gave her mother forty waxolotl.
Similarly, in this piece of nonsense verse by Ogden Nash, readers can find the use of a mosaic or compound rhyme. It occurs in the last two lines where “an axolotl,” (a kind of salamander) is rhymed with the peculiar word, “waxolotl” in order to evoke laughter.
Explore the best-loved poems of Ogden Nash.
Don Juan, Canto I by Lord Byron
’Tis pity learned virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don’t choose to say much upon this head,
I’m a plain man, and in a single station,
But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all?
It is not that only modern poets use mosaic rhymes. Even the poets from the early 19th century used this type of rhyme, typically for the sake of humorous effect. These lines occur in Lord Byron’s satirical epic poem Don Juan, which chronicles the life of a trivially “naive” character, Juan. In the last two lines of the excerpt, readers can find a textbook example of a mosaic rhyme. The polysyllabic word “intellectual” (contains five syllables) is forcefully rhymed with the words “hen-peck’d you all.” The rhyme occurs between these three syllables, “lec-tu-al” and the words “peck’d you all.”
The Bugler’s First Communion by Gerard Manley Hopkins
This very very day came down to us after a boon he on
My late being there begged of me, overflowing
Boon in my bestowing,
Came, I say, this day to it—to a First Communion.
Here’s another example of mosaic rhyme from poetry. Generally, Hopkins’ poetry does not contain as many mosaic rhymes as found in Ogden Nash’s poetry. In this poem, readers can find a rhyming between “boon he on” and “Communion.” It is an instance of mosaic or multisyllabic rhyme.
Read more Gerard Manley Hopkins poems.
Examples of Mosaic Rhymes in Songs
The Motorcycle Song by Arlo Guthrie
I don’t want a pickle
I just want to ride on my motor-cicle
And I don’t want a tickle
I’d rather ride on my motor-cicle
And I don’t want to die
I just want to ride on my motor-cy-cle
Similar to poetry, several songs do use mosaic rhymes for the comic effect. In modern raps and spoken word poetry, we often find mosaic rhymes in most unexpected instances. Those rhymes have a shocking effect on readers’ ears. Read the given lyrics of Guthrie’s song. You can understand how the writer intentionally changes the pronunciation of “motorcycle” to make it rhyme with “pickle” and “sickle” respectively. In this example of mosaic rhyme, a monosyllabic word rhymes with the multisyllabic word “motor-cicle”.
A Fine Romance by Ella Fitzgerald
A fine romance, with no kisses
A fine romance, my friend this is
You’re just as hard to land as the Ile de France!
I haven’t got a chance, this is a fine romance.
In the first two lines, we can find a mosaic rhyme. The words “this is” rhyme with “kisses”. The latter word is disyllabic and pronounced as “kiss-iz”. That’s why it rhymes with “this is.”
Why Do Writers Use Mosaic Rhyme?
Now, you are wondering what the purpose of using mosaic rhymes is. There are some easy-to-use, good-to-hear words. Why do writers not use those words for rhyming? After exploring the examples quoted above, we have already understood why poets or writers use mosaic or multisyllabic rhymes. It is for the sake of comic effect. Sometimes, the use of a different sound pattern amuses readers. It makes them revisit the lines and ask why the writers used this multi-word rhyming. It is worth considering how mosaic rhymes enhance the sound scheme.
A mosaic rhyme is the rhyming between two or more monosyllabic words and a single word that is longer than the former ones. This rhyme is not natural. It sounds somewhat forced. Writers use it for comic effect.
Some of the mosaic rhyme words are “know it” and “poet”; “sinner” and “win her”; “Adam” and “Had ‘em”.
Mosaic rhymes occur between a multisyllabic word and two or more short words, as in “intellectual” and “hen-peck’d you all.” Feminine rhymes or double rhymes occur in words having identical final syllables, such as in “pleasure” and “treasure”.
Related Literary Terms
- Broken Rhyme: occurs when a poet cuts a word in half to create a rhyme.
- End Rhyme: occurs when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
- Exact Rhyme: occurs when writers use the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds at the end of verse lines.
- Eye Rhyme: is a literary device that occurs when two words are spelled the same but are pronounced differently.
- Imperfect Rhyme: is the opposite of perfect rhyme and it refers to the words that rhyme in part, but not perfectly.
- Feminine Rhyme: is a type of rhyme that is made up of two unstressed syllables.
- Masculine Rhyme: is a type of rhyme that occurs when the stressed syllables at the end of verse lines rhyme.