Pararhyme is used in place of perfect, or full, rhymes at the end of lines of poetry. This may be done in order to connect words that don’t perfectly rhyme when the poet wants to use them or in order to create the feeling of rhyme without the heavy-handed pattern of perfect rhyme.
Pararhyme is a form of rhyme that depends on the repetition of consonant sounds between words at the ends of lines.
It may also occur within the middle of lines, creating what’s known as internal rhyme. Poets use pararhyme for several different reasons, the most important being that they want words to rhyme but don’t want the rhyme scheme to be overpowering. It may also occur when a poet is attempting to maintain a rhyme scheme (and a metrical pattern) and needs to use a certain word, even though it doesn’t rhyme perfectly.
Examples of Pararhyme in Poetry
This poem is a wonderful example of how a poet used pararhyme in order to avoid the heavy-handed effect of full rhyme. This is a war poem, one that was written during World War I when those reading would all have personal connections to the War and may have lost someone within its numerous battles. Owen writes:
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
The first two end words, “bestirred” and “stared” as examples as well as “hall” and “Hell.” These are not the only instances of pararhyme in this poem. Later on, Wilfred Owen uses these lines:
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Here, Owen connects the words “friend” and “frowned” and “killed” and “cold,” both examples of pararhyme. It’s likely that Owen was well aware that using perfect rhymes would make the poem sound far more like an upbeat song than he was interested in. This would change the overall tone of the piece and might make readers feel as though he wasn’t taking war as seriously as it deserves.
Explore from Wilfred Owen poems.
In this poem, readers can find examples of less obvious pararhyme. The words are still fully within the category, but the end words only use one consonant sound to connect with one another. This piece is is a creative poem that uses the symbol of a fox, and its quick, fleeting movements, to represent a writer’s muse. The first stanza reads:
I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Here, Hughes connects the end words “alive” and “move” with pararhyme. Another stanza reads:
Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come
Here, Hughes connects “lame” and “come.” The words “snow” and “hollow” are more obvious examples.
Read more Ted Hughes poems.
In the first lines of this piece, readers can see more examples of pararhyme:
I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –
The words “Room” and “Storm” are both examples. As are “Room” and “firm” in the following stanza. Dickinson is known for her ability to link together consonant-focused rhymes like these. Readers should also take the time to consider the use of pararhymes within the lines of poems as well. For example, a poet might choose to connect words in the middle of lines rather than the end-words.
Discover more Emily Dickinson poems.
The purpose is to create rhyme in lines of verse without using a clear and over-powering rhyme scheme. Poets might use pararhyme in among other types of rhyme as well.
Pararhyme creates the hint of a rhyme without using an obvious pattern. It can connect words and phrases in new ways as well as sound musical without over-powering the content.
The purpose is the create the feeling of rhyme throughout a poem. It can align words and make specific passages more effective.
Related Literary Terms
- Consonance: the repetition of a consonant sound in words, phrases, sentences, or passages in prose and verse writing.
- End Rhyme: a common type of rhyme found in poetry. They occur when the last word of two or more lines rhyme.
- Blank Verse: a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
- Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
- Exact Rhyme: a literary device that’s used in poetry. It occurs when the writer uses the same stressed vowel or consonant sounds.
- Eye Rhyme: a literary device used in poetry. It occurs when two words are spelled the same or similarly but are pronounced differently.
- Read: Everything you need to know about rhyme schemes in poetry
- Watch: Rhyme Scheme
- Watch: The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern