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English - Rhyme & Rhythm

Poets use rhyme and rhythm in their poems to create particular effects.


Rhyme can make an important contribution to the overall impact of the poem.

People often expect poems to rhyme, even though many do not.

The system of rhyme within a poem is called a rhyme scheme.

Rhyme can influence the effect of a poem in a variety of ways.

Most rhymes work on the basis of the rhyme occurring at the end of a line, some occur in the middle of the line : internal rhymes.


Some possible effects to look for when explaining how a poet uses rhyme

The sound effects create a 'musical' quality, or a jarring, a discordant effect.

The emphasis that it places on certain words, giving them prominence.

The way, in which it draws lines and stanzas together, linking ideas and images.

The pattern it creates.

The sense of ending or finality - the rhyming couplet is often used to provide a sense of ending.


Working out the rhyme scheme : each line is given a letter of the alphabet starting with A.

When two or more lines rhyme, they are given the same letter.


Traditional forms and patterns

Couplets: Pairs of lines that rhyme (AA)

Triplets: Lines rhyme in sets of three (AAA)

Quatrains: Lines rhyming in sets of four - Usual rhyme schemes are:








Another kind of pattern in poetry can be created through rhythm - which consists of patterns of recurring stresses and pauses.

Rhythm can exert a strong influence on the overall effect of a poem, giving it a feeling of 'movement' and life.

The poet can use rhythm to emphasise a certain idea in the poem or to help create its mood or tone.

There are many kinds of rhythm in poetry:

Gentle and flowing.

Harsh and discordant.

Stilted and uneven in phrasing or regular in tempo.

Poetry can have a rhythm that reflects a serious or solemn or dignified mood, or a rhythm that suggests the comic or absurd.

Poets can create and use rhythmical effects in their poetry in various ways:

Syllable Stress: where words contain their own rhythm patterns in the sense that we stress certain syllables more than others in words when we pronounce them.

Poets often use the natural rhythms within the words themselves to help contribute to the overall effect.

Emphatic Stress: sometimes the poet might place an emphasis on a particular word or phrase, in order to achieve a particular effect.

Phrasing & Punctuation: the rhythm of a poem can be influenced by factors such as length of phrases, lines or sentences, the placing of punctuation marks, line breaks, stanza breaks and repetitions.

Metre: the whole notion of rhythm in poetry is closely tied up with the idea of metre - the stress patterns used in a poem.

Often poetry follows a regular rhythm pattern. Sometimes poets use irregular patterns to create particular effects.

Modern poems are less likely to have strict, regular rhythm patterns than pre- 1914 poems.

On a basic level, the pattern created by a regular metre can be seen in nursery rhymes and limericks.

Note: You need to be able to:

Explain the importance of rhyme and rhythm when studying poetry.

You need to suggest reasons why a poet has chosen a particular rhyme scheme and/or rhythm pattern and comment on how it contributes, along with the other features in the poem, in creating the poem's effect.

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