Poetry Kaleidoscope: Guide to Poetry

Rhyme Scheme

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A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming lines in a poem or in lyrics for music. It is usually referred to by using letters to indicate which lines rhyme.

For example "abab" indicates a four-line stanza in which the first and third lines rhyme, as do the second and fourth. Here is an example of this rhyme scheme from To Anthea, Who May Command Him Any Thing by Robert Herrick:

Bid me to weep, and I will weep,
While I have eyes to see;
And having none, yet I will keep
A heart to weep for thee.

There are many different such forms, each with its own associations and resonances to cause a particular effect on the reader. A basic distinction is between rhyme schemes that apply to a single stanza, and those that continue their pattern throughout an entire poem (see chain rhyme). There are also more elaborate related forms, like the sestina - which requires repetition of exact words in a complex pattern.

In English, highly repetitive rhyme schemes are unusual. English has more vowel sounds than Italian, for example, meaning that such a scheme would be far more restrictive for an English writer than an Italian one - there are fewer suitable words to match a given pattern. Even such schemes as the terza rima ("aba bcb cdc ded..."), used by Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy, have been considered too difficult for English.

Some rhyme schemes:

Poetry Guide Home | Up | Classification of Rhymes | Rhyme Scheme | Chain Rhyme | Eye Rhyme | Feminine Rhyme | Half Rhyme | Holorime | Internal Rhyme | Nursery Rhyme | Pararhyme | Sprung Rhythm | Triolet | Pruning Poem

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