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This lesson analyzes rhyme and the qualities of rhyming words. Exact rhyme is then defined using examples to illustrate the purpose of rhyming in poetry.

Definition of Exact Rhyme

Believe it or not, the term ‘rhyme’ has a broad definition in literature. Rhyme is the repetition of similar sounds in two or more words. However, there are many forms of rhyme.

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Some poets use near rhyme, which consists of words that are similar but, in fact, sound a bit different.On the other hand, a lot of poetry exhibits exact rhyme, which is the type of rhyme you are likely the most familiar with. Exact rhyme is the repetition of the same stressed vowel sound as well as any consonant sounds that follow the vowel. For example, look at the word pair ‘now’ and ‘cow’. The exact same vowel sound is repeated with no change in consonant sounds after the vowel sound. Only the ‘n’ and the ‘c’ sounds differ, as they appear before the repeated vowel sound. It is important to remember that the spelling does not have to be exact, it is only the sound created that matters in exact rhyme.

Look at that word pair again. Notice that each word is only one syllable, so that one syllable is the one that is stressed. It is easy to find exact rhyme in one-syllable words. However, in words with multiple syllables, exact rhyme only occurs if the stressed syllable is the one which repeats the vowel sound.

For example, the words ‘sister’ and ‘blister’ have two syllables. For each, the stressed syllable is the first. In other words, when you say each word, the first syllable is the one you emphasize. In that way, it is the short ‘I’ sound that must be repeated along with all the consonant sounds that follow it. Thus, ‘sister’ and ‘blister’ show exact rhyme.

Internal Rhyme in Poetry

Poets use exact rhyme for many reasons in poetry. One way is to create internal rhyme. Internal rhyme is when a poet uses rhyming words within one line of a poem.

Internal rhyme can be seen in these lines of Robert Southey’s poem The Cataract of Lodore:Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound.Dividing and gliding and sliding,And falling and brawling and sprawlingCan you find the internal rhyme? Three words in the middle line (dividing, gliding, sliding) show exact rhyme. Each has a long ‘i’ sound followed by the ‘ding’ sound.The last line also has exact internal rhyme.

Look at the words ‘falling’, ‘brawling’, and ‘sprawling’. The ‘aw’ vowel sound is followed by the ‘ling’ sound. Also, notice how ‘falling’ is part of the exact internal rhyme. Yes, it lacks the ‘w’ in the spelling, but if you say it carefully, you can see it does create the same vowel sound.

End Rhyme in Poetry

The most common form of exact rhyme poets use is end rhyme. Each rhyme occurs when the final word in a line rhymes with another final word of a different line. Find the end rhyme in the following poem, To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet:If ever two were one, then surely we.If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;If ever wife was happy in a man,Compare with me, ye women, if you can.I prize thy love more than whole mines of goldOr all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such I can no way repay,The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.Then while we live, in love let’s so persevereThat when we live no more, we may live ever.You should have been able to pick up on the pattern Bradstreet uses. Each pair of lines has end rhyme. But which words show exact rhyme? The exact rhyming words are ‘we’ and ‘thee’, ‘man’ and ‘can’, ‘gold’ and ‘hold’, and ‘repay’ and ‘pray’.The last pair, ‘persevere’ and ‘ever’, do not show exact rhyme.

Say each word slowly. ”Persevere.” ”Ever.” You should be able to tell that the final vowel and consonant sound is not exactly the same. The last syllable of persevere sounds like ‘ear’, whereas the final syllable of ever sounds like ‘ver’.

Two different sounds, but close enough that Bradstreet uses the pair in her pattern of sounds. This is an example of near rhyme.

Rhyme Scheme

Lastly, end rhyme is used to create a rhyme scheme, which is the pattern of end rhyme. The pattern is described using letters of the alphabet, beginning with A and adding a new letter to each sound.

Look again at the poem by Anne Bradstreet. The rhyme scheme for this poem is AABBCCDDEE because every two lines, a new sound is used for end rhyme. If any of the sounds repeat, then the letter would repeat as well. Remember that the last two lines are not exact rhyme, but Bradstreet uses near rhyme for the sake of the rhyme scheme.

Practice identifying the rhyme scheme in the following poem, Upon Julia’s Clothes by Robert Herrick.When as in silks my Julia goes,Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flowsThat liquefaction of her clothes.Next, when I cast mine eyes, and seeThat brave vibration, each way free,O, how that glittering taketh me!The rhyme scheme is AAABBB.

Lesson Summary

Rhyme is the repetition of sounds in two or more words. Exact rhyme occurs when the exact vowel sound on the stressed syllable and the following consonant sounds are repeated in another word. Exact rhyme differs from near rhyme in that with near rhyme, the sounds are similar but not exact.Exact rhyme can be used in poetry for internal rhyme, which is rhyme within a line. Exact rhyme can also be used in end rhyme, which is when the final words of lines rhyme.

End rhyme can be used to create a rhyme scheme, which is a specific pattern of end rhyme.

Learning Outcomes

Once you are finished, you should be able to:

  • Describe exact rhyme and state an example
  • Identify end rhyme
  • Explain the term rhyme scheme

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