True rhymes serve many purposes. They hold poems together, giving continuity especially to longer pieces. Rhymes also create echoes, allowing poets to draw readers to their earlier words. Likewise, rhymes and rhyming patterns make poems more memorable. Poets use true rhyme and other forms of rhyme so that their pieces make a lasting impression.
Types of True Rhyme
Words that rhyme sound alike at the end, typically at or after the last stressed syllable. With full or masculine rhyme, the syllables sound exactly alike except for the initial sound, as in "rage" and "gauge." Additionally, words that sound identical in a stressed final syllable are masculine rhymes: "desire" and "conspire," for instance. Conversely, words that rhyme in unstressed final syllables are called feminine rhymes. Examples of feminine rhyme are "stirring" and "referring" as well as "savior" and "behavior." Rhymes not considered "true" are either slant rhymes, meaning that only the final consonants sound the same, or eye rhymes, meaning that the syllables look alike but sound different.
Rhyme patterns vary according to where in the line or stanza the rhyme occurs. The most common rhyme pattern is end rhyme, meaning that the words at the end of lines sound alike. Rhyme scheme depends on the pattern of end rhymes in a stanza, with each rhyme being represented by the same letter; these are the rhymes that draw poems together. Poets can also make words within a line sound alike, usually positioned in the middle and at the end. This is called internal rhyme. An example comes from the first line of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," in which "dreary" rhymes with the final word of the line, "weary." The internal rhyme helps make the line memorable.
Poets use rhyme for various reasons. Rhyming affects the rhythm of a verse, making it flow more quickly or lyrically. For example, the use of short, full rhymes in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" quickens the movement of this long poem by drawing the reader down through the rhymes. Feminine rhymes tend to create musicality, a flow through the stanza, due to their unstressed syllabic rhyme, as in Poe's line "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary." Poets also use rhyme to create emphasis. For instance, simple rhymes such as those used in nursery rhymes and other children's literature give the work a sing-song quality, often making the lines easier to remember.
Effects of Rhyme
Rhyming has various effects on poetry, depending on its use. Rhyme schemes tend to bring harmony; they give a sense of completeness, bringing cohesion to longer works. Conversely, poets may use rhymes to create different effects. A series of masculine rhymes, for instance, tend to sound hard or fixed: "I wept" and "father leapt." In addition, unexpected rhymes, such as internal rhymes, tend to catch the reader's attention, focusing it where the poet wants. Another use of true rhyme is to create a comic effect, as in the case of limericks. The traditional AABBA format of limericks lets the reader know a joke comes at the end, as in the case of the irreverent limerick "A Young Lady of Lynn"; readers discover at the end that the lady fell into her lemonade.
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- The Poetry Foundation: Rhyme
- Literary Terms and Criticism; John Pech & Martin Coyle
- Mastering English Literature; Richard Gill
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