by Dr M C Gupta
An article written to answer a query posed by a participant in my context.
I have been organizing the "POETRY IN RHYME - RHYTHM CONTEST-winner" for last three years. The contest announcement for the current month reads: “Win 10,000 GP. Enter by 31 July 2008 up to 3 old or new poems in rhyme and meter on any topic, stating the syllabic and rhyme pattern used”. A reader asked me the question: “What are rhyme and syllable patterns?” This article has been written to answer that query.
1. WHAT IS RHYME PATTERN?
This refers to the pattern as to how certain lines of a poetry rhyme with each other. For this purpose, a letter is assigned to the last word of each line. For example, let us consider the first quatrain of Shakespeare's sonnet 147:
My love is as a fever, longing still-- a
For that which longer nurseth the disease,-- b
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,-- a
Th' uncertain sickly appetite to please. --b
The first line ends with "still," so we assign the value a to it. Because the second line does not rhyme with the first one, we assign it a value of b. Line three rhymes with line one, so it has the same value of a. The fourth line rhymes with the second, so it gets a b. The rhyme scheme here is, therefore, stated to be abab.
The commonest and simplest rhyme scheme is the aa scheme, found in rhyming couplets, as in "FROZEN FLAME: bilingual--award winner " .
A very common rhyming scheme is abcb, as in "DEPARTING TEARS"
(abcb means that out of the 4 lines of a stanza, lines 2 and 4 have similar rhyming end words, namely rhyme b, while lines 1 and 3 are independent.)
The abab scheme usually found in sonnets, as described above, is more difficult for the writer, but has its own beauty.
There can be more complex rhyming patterns. Sestina is specially difficult to write. It can be viewed in "LOVE AND SUICIDE--a sestina" . The rhyme pattern for that looks like this: abcdef faebdc cfdabe ecbfad deacfb bdfeca and then ad/be/cf.
Rhyme may be complete or incomplete.
Example of complete rhyme:
Jack fell down,
Broke his crown.
Examples of incomplete rhyme:
Jack fell down,
Broke his crowns.
Jack fell down,
Broke his pawn.
Jack fell down,
Lost his count.
Jack fell down
In the last round.
For further information on rhyme schemes, you may view
2. WHAT IS SYLLABIC PATTERN?
Before a pattern is established, the first step is counting the number of syllables. We must ascertain as to how many syllables are there in a line. This can be tricky because people differ in the way they pronounce English. It is better to follow a standard dictionary. I would prefer a hard bound dictionary to an online one, though the latter may be handy in case of doubt or dispute. For those in US, it is better to follow a dictionary that follows US pronunciation. I have found the Random House Dictionary to be a good one for this purpose.
A detailed description of syllabic pattern is given in the article "SCANSION--the basics" .
A quick and easy method is to click--
3. THE IMPORTANCE OF RHYTHM AND METER
There is an inseparable relation between music and poetry. The major poetical characteristic that lends musical quality to poetry is rhythm. Rhythm and meter are closely related. The dictionary definition of meter is: rhythm as given by division into parts of equal time. The word meter comes from the word metronome, which is a device to measure beats within a definite time frame. It is used to set the tempo for a piece of music. Classic poetry, like any musical creation, has both rhythm and meter. The job of both music and poetry is to bring some sort of emotion to the reader or listener; to touch their hearts with the words the poet has written. We have all listened to a song and suddenly realized we are crying. Such power over our emotions, which is the hallmark of good poetry, is enhanced if the poetry has rhythm.
The following poem discusses this issue: "WHAT IS A POEM?" .
You may also view the following:
"WRITING POETRY--Basic guidelines"
"POETRY WRITING- DO, DON’Ts: winner"
"WHAT IS POETRY?—a sonnet"
All my poems on this site carry a footnote defining the rhyme and syllabic pattern used in the poem, unless they conform to a well known pattern such as a sonnet or a haiku. Viewing a few of them will help you in understanding the practical aspects of rhyme and syllable patterns. One of my favourite syllabic schemes is 7-6-7-6. It means that lines 1 and 3 have 7 syllables each while lines 2 and 4 have 6 syllables each.
• Featured as Editor’s choice in Poetry Newsletter, 25 September 2008.
M C Gupta
28 July 2008