Rhythm in Poetry - English Poetry Notes

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  • Rhythm in poetry is achieved through repetition of words or sounds. This is achieved through: Rhyme, Alliteration, Consonance and Assonance.


  • Rhyme is the repletion of sounds at the end of lines in a poem. This repetition can be in form of a scheme where it forms a pattern that runs across the poem or just in a few lines. E.g.

    They said we should be honest
    And taught us to be the best
    In staying pure and chaste
    But I feel and look like a guest
    Because here, to be best
    Is to be corrupt with zest

  • In this poem the end sounds /est/ has been repeated several times and therefore the poem has rhyme.
  • When identifying rhyme only sounds should be considered not words. The last two sounds whether they constitute a syllable or not. E.g. –est in best, /eid / in made, /et/ in set. A long sound is considered as a single sound and must therefore be attached to another before deciding if it rhymes or not. E.g.
  • The words bee, see and tea do not rhyme although they all end with /i: / but the words dear, seer, fear and tear rhyme because they end with two distinct sounds /ia/.
  • Sometimes words rhyme although they have different spellings, so it important to only consider how words are pronounced and not written. For example, the words day, weigh, grey and bouquet rhyme for they all end with the /ai/ sounds as in /dei/ /wei/ /grei/ and /bukei/ but they have different spellings at the end.
  • When a poem has a few words that rhyme then the style in the poem will be use of rhyming words e.g. 

    We suffer from normalcy
    And ignorance in our diplomacy
    We ought to find normal boring
    Life should not get comfortable
    Too much comfort kills

  • In this poem there is use of rhyming words i.e. diplomacy and normalcy but the poem has no rhyme scheme.

Internal Rhyme

  • Internal rhyme refers to use of rhyming words within a line of a poem if the line is dived into two clauses and they all end with the same sound e.g. 

    Although they set a target, it was not met

    So she devised a different structure, amidst the troubled future

Rhyme Scheme

  • Rhyme scheme is a pattern that is created by repetition of sounds at the end of lines to create rhythm.
  • The scheme can be regular or irregular depending on whether the next set of sounds can be predicated or not. Letters of the alphabet are used to represent sounds in a rhyme scheme. A rhyme scheme is written in a flowing manner without uses of commas or any other punctuation.

    This the debt I pay (a)
    Just for one riotous day (a)
    Year of regret and grief (b)
    Sorrow without relief (b)
    Pay it, I will to the end (c)
    Until the grave, my friend (c)
    Gives me a true release (d)
    Gives me the clasp of peace (d)
    Slight was the thing I bought (e)
    Small was the debt I thought (e)
    Poor was the loan at best (f)
    God! But the interest (f)

  • The rhyme scheme in the poem above will be aabbccddeeff. This rhyme scheme is a regular one because we can easily predict the next sound to be gg. This rhyme scheme creates musicality in the poem and also reinforces the meanings of the words that rhyme.


  • Alliteration involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds in close proximity in order to create rhythm, for example,

    She sang a sad song or They lasted longer than they had last time


  • Consonance on the other hand involves repetition of consonant sounds present at the middle or at the end of words e.g.

    He fought and thought about it or She had talked about it a lot



Describe the use of alliteration and consonance in the poem below.


The gloomy gallant faces
Stare sadly at their fate
The silent voices so eloquent
Begging for justice as Jesus justified
‘No love between neighbours
Is the biggest sin on earth.’


  • Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in words that follow each other closely in a poem usually to create musicality.


Describe assonance in the poem below.


All his life James had thanked her
Pleading heaving and leaning on false fortified force
Filth sickly and sinful to her hateful eyes

Booing him she looked good—sly fly and likely to puke
She had slept with him and borne him a boy
The boy was buoyant and young
I am their only son and they are rival politicians

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