The Usage and Function of Sound and Rhyme in a Poem

Poem writers regularly use sound in order to boost and improve their poetry. Below are a few of the sound techniques that poets often use to develop mood, tone and imagery.

Rhyme Scheme

Writers of poetry organizes words that rhyme in a number of different patterns, known as rhyme schemes. Whenever rhyming words occur at the end of a line of a poem, they are referred to as the end rhyme, when rhyming words occur inside the lines of a poem, they are called internal rhyme.

Look at the example below, an excerpt of The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, and take note of the end rhyme.

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.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore

Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—

This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,

And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—

Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—

Merely this and nothing more.

The above poem can also be used as an example of internal rhyme, but for comparison sake, take a look at this excerpt of the popular Beatles song, Hey Jude.

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better

And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain

Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah

Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin

You’re waiting for someone to perform with
And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah yeah

Can you pick out the rhyme scheme?

Sound and Rhyme Types and Examples

When it comes to the use of sound rhyme in poetry, there are a number that you can choose from.

Rhyme Scheme Examples

  • Alternate rhyme: This is sometimes referred to as ABAB rhyme, it looks like: ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH
  • Ballade: This type of rhyme typically contains three stanzas with the rhyme scheme of ABABBCBC and then BCBC.
  • Monorhyme: This is a poem where every line follows the same rhyme scheme.
  • Couplet: This type of poetry has stanzas with two lines, following the AA rhyme scheme. It will often look like AA BB CC DD, etc.
  • Triplet: This often follows the same repetition as the couplet, using a rhyme scheme of AAA
  • Enclosed Rhyme: Follows an ABBA rhyme scheme
  • Terza Rima Rhyme Scheme: This used stanzas with three lines. It looks like: ABA BCB CDC DED, etc.
  • Keats Odes Rhyme Scheme: This follows an ABABCDECDE pattern.
  • Limerick: A limerick has five lines and follows an AABBA rhythm.
  • Villanelle: This is a poem with nineteen lines (five tercets and a final quatrain.) It follows a pattern of A1bA2, abA1, abA2, abA1, abA2, abA1A2.

What is a Villanelle?

A villanelle is a highly structured, nineteen line poem that has two repeating rhymes and two refrains. Typically, the first and third tercet will be repeated in the last lines of the stanza and again in the final stanza.

Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is an excellent example.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Example of a Terza Rima Rhyme Scheme

Dragonfly by Susan Mitchell

caught on the wing the wing is a

disarray of sun spots
overtaking

the air black dots on sheer on trans-

parency on wheel and whee
openness so

surprising it rivals invincibility what

is magic to do pull itself
out of a hat

saw itself in two what a to-do

grabs hold of my finger
extended will

not to be shaken free together we are one

stem one spire one shoot upshot
bent at a right

angle to itself so this is what it feels

to be reed a stem with wings
for leaves a

finger that can see how the wind blows what

whir ungloves my breath what whist
what wings two

sets can up can down can blow fast

forward faster re-
verse how is

language to keep up how outwing

those wings their gulps
and gobbles of

ricochet at every bump is this

what the world is this romp
this dizziness a fast

roll of the dice four dots and three hundreds

bounced into life the same
morning bumbling

babies they stub their fantastic

engines on air on me not
at all brainy

like a bow tied like a fancy gift done

up with organza like a spree
a paint-the-town dotty

such extravagance such waste too soon

they stump to a standstill in
puddles on hedges

tossed aside still brand new still shiny

the windup toy that will not wind a
mood run down

should i take back my delight delaminate

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what wing was joy but oh my king-
dom for the tip of a branch

Slant Rhyme Examples

A slant rhyme is sometimes called an imperfect rhyme or an oblique rhyme or a half rhyme. It is one of the most relevant poetic devices. Slant rhymes can be defined as being rhymes in which the stressed syllables of the ending consonants match – but the vowels do not.

Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats is one of the examples of slant rhymes in poetry.

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

This man had kept a school

And rode our wingèd horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road,

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,

And hens to moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live:

The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse—

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.