Rhyme takes many different forms, follows different patterns, and is used in a wide variety of ways. It is most common in poetry, but there are examples to be found in prose. It is usually used when the writer wants to make their poetry sound more musical than it already does. By connecting words via the same consonant and assonant sounds, the poem can feel more pleasing to the ear and more song-like. Rhyme was traditionally used in poetry for centuries, but in recent years poets have started using free verse.
Definition of Rhyme
Rhyme is the use of corresponding sounds in lines of writing. This can occur at the end of lines or in the middle. The most commonly resigned type of rhyme is full-end rhymes. These appear at the end of lines and rhyme perfectly with one another. To create a rhyme, the piece of writing has to have two or more similar-sounding words. It can be used to help unify a piece of poetry or create a specific effect. The rhyme might make the poem sound more upbeat or more haunting, depending on how it’s used.
Common Rhyme Schemes
There are many different ways writers might use rhyme in their poetry. They might make a few words throughout the poem rhyme or maintain a consistent pattern. Below are a few examples of some possible rhyme schemes a poet might engage with.
- Alternate Rhyme: the first and third lines of a stanza rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme, ABAB. This is used in poems with four or eight-line stanzas—for example, the first lines of ‘Neither Out Far not in Deep‘ by Robert Frost.
- Triplet: uses a rhyme scheme of AAA in sets of three. For example, ‘Upon Julia’s Clothes‘ by Robert Herrick.
- Couplet: uses a rhyme scheme of AA in sets of two. For example, ‘A Poison Tree‘ by William Blake. Read more poetry from William Blake.
- Ballad: contains three stanzas and uses the rhyme scheme ABABBCBC.
- Shakespearean Sonnet: uses iambic pentameter and rhymes ABABCDCDEFEFGG. For example, ‘Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day‘ by William Shakespeare.
Common Types of Rhyme
The three most common types of rhyme in poetry are:
- Full rhyme: also known as a perfect rhyme. These rhymes share the same number of syllables and the same assonance.
- Half-rhyme: also known as slant, imperfect, and near rhyme. This rhyme is formed by words that are not identical but are similar, in assonance and/or the number of syllables.
- Internal rhyme: rhymes that appear in the middle of lines rather than at the end of lines.
These rhyme schemes and types of rhyme are only a few examples. Read more about rhyme in poetry with the article: Everything You Need to Know about Rhyme Schemes in Poetry.
Examples of Rhyme in Poetry
This well-loved, long poem is a great example of how rhyme can be used. The poet chose to make use of eighteen six-line stanzas. Throughout, the poet uses trochaic octameter, a very distinctive metrical form and a very consistent rhyme scheme of ABCBBB. Many of the lines end with the same words. For example, “ore” in “Lenore” and “Nevermore.” Consider these lines as an example of how rhyme can be used to create a haunting and disturbing atmosphere:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
These are the famous first lines of the poem, and they introduce the reader to the strange world that Poe’s speaker is inhabiting.
Explore more Edgar Allan Poe poems.
In the famous lines of this Frost poem, readers can find the following rhyme scheme: AABA BBCB CCDC DDD. It follows a simple pattern that may feel akin to a nursery rhyme when read out loud. It works within a classic Rubaiyat stanza. Rubaiyat is a Persian term for ‘quatrain,’ denoting a four-lined stanza. Here are the first lines of the poem:
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.
In this stanza, the pattern of AABA is quite clear. Frost uses perfect rhymes in the first, second, and fourth lines.
Read more Robert Frost poems.
A Silly Poem by Spike Milligan
In this funny, children’s poem, the poet uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB. There are only four lines in the piece, and therefore, each rhyme is even more impactful. It also uses a steady rhythm that, in addition to the rhyme, makes the poem easy and fun to read. The first two lines read:
Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I’ll draw a sketch of thee,
The following two lines are two questions and contain the punchline of the joke.
Discover Spike Milligan’s poetry.
Rhyme is important in some poems. For those who use it, it’s important to maintain a particular form and creating a feeling of unity throughout the lines. It can also increase the musicality of the piece.
Free verse is the lack of a rhyme scheme or metrical pattern in poetry.
Sonnets usually rhyme either ABABCDCDEFEFGG or start with ABBAABBA and conclude with either CDCD or CCDD.
Rhyme is the use of similar-sounding words in lines of verse. They can appear in the middle or at the ends of lines and rhyme perfectly or incompletely.
Related Literary Terms
- Rhyme Scheme of Sonnets: sonnets usually conform to one of two different rhyme schemes, those connected to the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan sonnet forms.
- Rhetoric: the use of language effectively in writing or speech to persuade the audience.
- Terza Rima: the use of language effectively in writing or speech to persuade the audience.
- Iambic Pentameter: a very common way that lines of poetry are structured. It refers to lines that contain five sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second stressed.
- Canto: a subsection of a long narrative or epic poem. It is made up of at least five lines, but it is normally much longer.
- Epic Poetry: a long narrative poem that tells the story of heroic deeds, normally accomplished by more-than-human characters.
- Watch: Rhyme and Rhyme Scheme in Poetry
- Watch: The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern
- Listen: Poetry | Rhyme Scheme, Rhythm, Repetition