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Rhyme Within Contemporary Poetry

Books of forgotten poetry stacked in room

While poems relying heavily on patterned end rhymes have fallen out of favor in contemporary poetry I think it is still useful to understand rhymes, as they are still very often used internally where they are not on the end of the line. Remember there are no rules to poetry and everything talked about in this section is just to help in an understanding of what is possible. So, if you are writing something and feel and end rhyme is right, then by all means go ahead. Really obvious end rhymes are still used a lot in children poetry. The predictable pattern is something children enjoy, so if you are interested in writing that then please keep this in mind. Now, lets look at the types of rhyme.

Types of Rhyme

Perfect Rhyme

  • Masculine.  Rhyme in which the stress is on the final syllable of the words (rhymesublime)
  • Feminine. Rhyme between two sets of one or more unstressed syllables. (hammercarpenter)
  • Dactylic. Rhyme in which the stress is on the antepenultimate (third from last) syllable (cacophoniesAristophanes)\

General Rhyme

  • Syllabic.  A rhyme in which the last syllable of each word sounds the same but does not necessarily contain stressed vowels. (cleaversilver, or pitterpatter; the final syllable of the words bottle and fiddle is /l/, a liquid consonant
  • Imperfect.  A rhyme between a stressed and an unstressed syllable. (wingcaring)
  • Unaccented/weak. A rhyme between two sets of one or more unstressed syllables. (hammercarpenter)
  • Semirhyme.  A rhyme with an extra syllable on one word. (bendending)
  • Forced/oblique. A rhyme with an imperfect match in sound. (greenfiendonethumb)
  • Half Rhyme.  Matching final consonants. (Harrycherry)
  • Pararhyme. All consonants match. (ticktock)
  • Assonance, consonance. Often referred to as slant rhymes these two devices are also a form of rhyming within a poem.
  • Alliteration. Also known as head rhyme alliteration is the matching of initial consonants.

Identical Rhymes

Identical rhymes are considered less than perfect in English poetry; but are valued more highly in other literature such as, for example, rime riche in French poetry.

Though homophones and homonyms satisfy the first condition for rhyming—that is, that the stressed vowel sound is the same—they do not satisfy the second: that the preceding consonant be different. As stated above, in a perfect rhyme the last stressed vowel and all following sounds are identical in both words.

If the sound preceding the stressed vowel is also identical, the rhyme is sometimes considered to be inferior and not a perfect rhyme after all. An example of such a super-rhyme or “more than perfect rhyme” is the identical rhyme, in which not only the vowels but also the onsets of the rhyming syllables are identical, as in gun and begun. Punning rhymes, such as bare and bear are also identical rhymes. The rhyme may extend even farther back than the last stressed vowel. If it extends all the way to the beginning of the line, so that there are two lines that sound very similar or identical, it is called a holorhyme (“For I scream/For ice cream”).

In poetics these would be considered identity, rather than rhyme.

Eye Rhyme

An eye rhyme, also called a visual rhyme or a sight rhyme, is a rhyme in which two words are spelled similarly but pronounced differently. An example is the name of English actor Sean Bean, whose name based on its visual aspect looks like it should be pronounced “Seen Bean”, but when spoken, there is no rhyming quality; its pronunciation is “Shawn Bean”.

Many older English poems, particularly those written in Middle English, contain rhymes that were originally true or full rhymes, but as read by modern readers, they are now eye rhymes because of shifts in pronunciation, especially the Great Vowel Shift. These are called historic rhymes. Historic rhymes are used by linguists to reconstruct pronunciations of old languages, and are used particularly extensively in the reconstruction of Old Chinese, whose writing system does not allude directly to pronunciation.

One example of a historic rhyme (i.e. one which was a true rhyme which is now an eye rhyme), is the following:

The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.

Player King, in William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act III, scene II

Mind Rhyme

Mind rhyme is the suggestion of a rhyme which is left unsaid and must be inferred by the listener. A rhyme may be subverted either by stopping short, or by replacing the expected word with another (which may have the same rhyme or not). Mind rhyme is a form of innuendo, where the unsaid word is taboo or completes a sentence indelicately.

  • As a point of interest, mind rhymes are not the only device like this in poetry. There are also phantom lines that only exist as an echo within the mind of the reader. Johnny Cash’s song – Born and raised in black and White. When he says that his fictional brother didn’t even try, there is an echo of the earlier line ‘to save my soul.’ I cannot think of another example at this time, but for me I feel this idea is awesome.

When replacing the word for the mind rhyme I would be more inclined to call it a subverted rhyme, as in cheerleaders chanting:

Raa Raa REE!
Kick ’em in the knee!
Raa Raa RASS!
Kick ’em in the other knee

Where the audience would tend to want to go with the rhyme instead, ass.

As this is pretty basic, although valuable information, I have merely reworked wiki information and added some commentary when needed. I am sure I will add some things but this stands as a pretty solid piece on rhymes.

  • The Thinker
    A poem I wrote while thinking about the lost statue, “The Poet at the Gates of Hell,” now known for just it’s center portion, The Thinker.
  • Children Spinning
    In youths youngest hour comes the dawn and we whirl around at the sky, and being young and in love
  • My Sweet English
    There are so many languages to love, but only one English to prize and take into ones arms with such fondness as to spark flames of passion high as angels might fancy to fly, my dear.
  • To be
    This rusted throne of kings, this gilded smile, This divine right of blood, this gift of sight,
  • The Plunge
    Around her I was Icarus with wings alight and burnt to nubs, now glowing as embers and garnets as I slowly descend into the adjust of knowing there is no longer an us and longing to submit to the plunge.

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