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Alex Makridakis Alex Makridakis
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Rhyming Schemes and You!

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A guide to a couple of rhyming schemes, because I had fun writing this. Hopefully you can find some use for this.

There are many different ways to rhyme, each one with it's own feel and use. I will explain a couple of simple ones, the most useful ones, and some that are frankly ridiculous. I'm mainly doing this to catalog some of the schemes I found, but I might as well share it with the community, too.


Basic Scheme 1: The Alternate Rhyme (ABAB).

This one is by far the easiest, and gives the most freedom. It's the one that most people are inherently familiar with when they think of rhyming. Great for beginners, but can get a bit boring to read and write unless you spice it up a bit. There is a more advanced version, which simply adds a fifth line (ABABB), and if you extend and modify it a bit, you get the Shakespearean Sonnet (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG)

Example: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? by the one and only William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?       (A)
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.      (B)
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, (A)
And summer's lease hath all too short a date. (B)

Basic Scheme 2: Enclosed Rhyme (ABBA)

I like this one because it gives the first line a sort of "call back" feel, because the next time you rhyme with it is at the end of the stanza. If you add another line at the front, you get the classic limerick scheme, think along the lines of there once was a man from Nantucket (AABBA)

Example: John Milton's On His Being Arrived to the Age of Twenty Three

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,  (A)
Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year! (B)
My hasting days fly on with full career,        (B)
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.   (A)

Basic Scheme 3: Couplets (AABB)

This one is pretty neat, with a really tight feeling due to the fact that you have two rhymes very close to each other in the same stanza, which can give the illusion of high rhyming content.

Example: I dunno, I found it on the internet

The Art of Biography          (A)
Is different from Geography.  (A)
Geography is about Maps,      (B)
But Biography is about Chaps. (B)


Those are the most basic of the basic, two lines that rhyme in different orders. These ones are a bit more advanced and usually cover the whole poem. As such, when adhered to, it gives the poem a very tight and controlled feel.

Intermediate Scheme 1: Spenserian sonnet (ABAB BCBC CDCD EE)

This is where things get tricky. As you can see, each stanza ties into the previous one. This might be my personal favourite scheme, it links into itself, it flows nicely, then it breaks free at the climax.

Example: Happy Ye Leaves! Whenas Those Lily Hands by the creator of the scheme, Edmund Spenser

Happy ye leaves. whenas those lily hands,           (A)
Which hold my life in their dead doing might,       (B)
Shall handle you, and hold in love's soft bands,    (A)
Like captives trembling at the victor's sight.      (B)

And happy lines on which, with starry light,        (B)
Those lamping eyes will deign sometimes to look,    (C)
And read the sorrows of my dying sprite,            (B)
Written with tears in heart's close bleeding book.  (C)

And happy rhymes! bathed in the sacred brook        (C)
Of Helicon, whence she derived is,                  (D)
When ye behold that angel's blessed look,           (C)
My soul's long lacked food, my heaven's bliss.      (D)

Leaves, lines, and rhymes seek her to please alone, (E)
Whom if ye please, I care for other none.           (E)

Intermediate Scheme 2: Chant Royal (ABABCCDDEDE DDEDE)

This is more of a song/chant rhyme, as this one is designed to go long. The bold E indicated that the line is repeated throughout the poem/song. Usually, ABABCCDDEDE is repeated five times, followed by DDEDE (or if you want to get fancy, it can also end in CCDDEDE) This one's a bit long for an example, so I will just give the last two stanzas of an example.

Example: the last two stanzas of The Dance of Death by Austin Dobson

He hath no pity. For the new-made Bride,       (A)
Blithe with the promise of her life's delight, (B)
That wanders gladly by her Husband's side,     (A)
He with the clatter of his drum doth fright.   (B)
He scares the Virgin at the convent grate;     (C)
The Maid half-won, the Lover passionate;       (C)
He hath no grace for weakness and decay:       (D)
The tender Wife, the Widow bent and gray,      (D)
The feeble Sire whose footstep faltereth,      (E)
All these he leadeth by the lonely way         (D)
There is no King more terrible than Death.     (E)

Youth, for whose ear and monishing of late,       (C)
I sang of Prodigals and lost estate,              (C)
Have thou thy joy of living and be gay;           (D)
But know not less that there must come a day,     (D)
Aye, and perchance e'en now it hasteneth,         (E)
When thine own heart shall speak to thee and say, (D)
There is no King more terrible than Death.        (E)

Intermediate Scheme 3: Monorhyme (AAAA)

This one is pretty bloody hard. Even with a rhyming dictionary, it's hard to find rhymes for this scheme. I should know, I did this one for one of my poems, although it was as easy as this particular scheme gets, using only four line stanzas. The strengths of this scheme are pretty obvious, as the poem can stand on it's own as a technically impressive poem, even if the content isn't all that great.

Example: A Monorhyme for the Shower by Dick Davis

Lifting her arms to soap her hair      (A)
Her pretty breasts respond – and there (A)
The movement of that buoyant pair      (A)
Is like a spell to make me swear       (A)
Twenty odd years have turned to air;   (A)
Now she’s the girl I didn’t dare       (A)
Approach, ask out, much less declare   (A)
My love to, mired in young despair.    (A)
Childbearing, rows, domestic care      (A)
All the prosaic wear and tear          (A)
That constitute the life we share      (A)
Slip from her beautiful and bare       (A)
Bright body as, made half aware        (A)
Of my quick, surreptitious stare,      (A)
She wrings the water from her hair     (A)
And turning smiles to see me there.    (A)


These three are just ridiculously hard, showcasing exactly how the English language can be bent and controlled by rhyming masters

Advanced Scheme 1: Terza Rima (ABA BCB CDC DED EFE ... YZY ZZ)

This one is actually considered to be unfit for use in English, as it was originally used by Dante for his Divine Comedy. Italian is much much more forgiving for this scheme, as English has much more vowels in it's language, which means that there are less restrictions in Italian. Hasn't stopped some brainy poets from making English Terza Rima poems. Terza Rima has no set length, and can go on for as long as you want, but usually ends with a couplet.

Example: Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,   (A)
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead   (B)
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, (A)

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,       (B)
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,            (C)
Who chariotest to their dark wintery bed           (B)

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,     (C)
Each like a corpse within its grave, until         (D)
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow        (C)

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill      (D)
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)    (E)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:        (D)

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;          (E)
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!           (E)

Advanced Scheme 2: The Raven Stanza (AA,B,CC,CB,B,B)

Oh isn't this a classic. The Raven is by far and away my favourite poem. It isn't just a fantastic story about paranoia, but it's just built beautifully. It's made in such a rigid structure, not just in terms of rhyming, but also in meter. Meter is basically how you arrange long and short syllables, which plays a key part in how the poem sounds when someone says it. The commas are there because each stanza has six lines, the comma separates the lines. Yes, this is also an internal rhyming scheme.

Once upon a midnight dreary    (A), while I pondered, weak and weary, (A)
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.              (B)
While I nodded, nearly napping (C), suddenly there came a tapping,    (C)
As of some one gently rapping  (C), rapping at my chamber door.       (B)
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door.         (B)
Only this and nothing more."                                          (B)

Advanced Scheme 3: Sestina (You ready? Here goes... ABCDEF FAEBDC CFDABE ECBFAD DEACFB BDFECA)

The sestina is actually kinda weird. This is the only type of poetry where you are actually NOT supposed to rhyme. This rhyming scheme actually uses the same word where you would have a rhyme. This makes the poem extremely complicated, as you have six set ending words for each line. A daunting task, indeed, but it creates an extremely interesting style.

Example: Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop

September rain falls on the house.               (A)
In the failing light, the old grandmother        (B)
sits in the kitchen with the child               (C)
beside the Little Marvel Stove,                  (D)
reading the jokes from the almanac,              (E)
laughing and talking to hide her tears.          (F)
She thinks that her equinoctial tears            (F)
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house (A)
were both foretold by the almanac,               (E)
but only known to a grandmother.                 (B)
The iron kettle sings on the stove.              (D)
She cuts some bread and says to the child,       (C)
It's time for tea now; but the child             (C)
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears     (F)
dance like mad on the hot black stove,           (D)
the way the rain must dance on the house.        (A)
Tidying up, the old grandmother                  (B)
hangs up the clever almanac                      (E)
on its string. Birdlike, the almanac             (E)
hovers half open above the child,                (C)
hovers above the old grandmother                 (B)
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.         (F)
She shivers and says she thinks the house        (A)
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.   (D)
It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.             (D)
I know what I know, says the almanac.            (E)
With crayons the child draws a rigid house       (A)
and a winding pathway. Then the child            (C)
puts in a man with buttons like tears            (F)
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.         (B)
But secretly, while the grandmother              (B)
busies herself about the stove,                  (D)
the little moons fall down like tears            (F)
from between the pages of the almanac            (E)
into the flower bed the child                    (C)
has carefully placed in the front of the house.  (A)
Time to plant tears, says the almanac.           (E)
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove     (D)
and the child draws another inscrutable house.   (A)


There you have it, some rhyming schemes of varying levels of difficulty. I mostly wrote this out for myself, but I felt it would be rude not to share my findings.

I hope you enjoyed it.

One last thing, I tried to get the letters to line up, but the text box you write in uses a different format or something. So while they lined up nicely when I wrote it, but it kinda all went to pieces when I actually posted it. Sorry about that.

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