Poetry: Form and Rhyme

There are so many different kinds of poetry, it can all get a bit confusing. Let’s tak a look at rhyme schemes and form.

Rhyme scheme:

Is how you describe and record the pattern of rhyme. This usually means ascribing letters to the rhyme. Eg: below is a poem whose end rhyme can be described as ABCB:

Roses are red        A

Violets are blue      B

Sugar is sweet       C

And so are you      B


PoetryForms and techniques of poetry:

  • Ballad: often intended to be sung, often romantic, for example: ‘As You Came from the Holy Land’ by Sir Walter Raleigh or ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The most common rhyme schemes for ballads are a b c b, and a b c b d b.
  • Blank verse: is written in iambic pentameter (see previous post), for example ‘The Ball Poem’ by John Berryman or ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Burlesque: uses parody and satire, it creates comedy through black humour, mocking and exaggeration; for example: ‘Hudibras’ by Samuel Butler or ‘The Rape of the Lock’ by Alexander Pope.
  • Cacophony: is a disharmony of sounds through words with sharp, displeasing, harsh, jarring sounds; for example: ‘The Bridge’ by Hart Crane or ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll.
  • Canzone: is a kind of poetic song of love, for example: ‘A Lady Asks Me’ by Guido Cavalcanti or ‘His Lament for Selvaggia’by Cino da Pistoia.
  • Cinquain: has five lines: 1st line is 1 stress, 2nd line has 2 stresses, 3rd line has 3 stresses, 4th line has 4 stresses, 5th line has 1 stress. (note: one word could contain more than one stress, for example, the word: syllable). Examples include: ‘Snow’ by Adelaide Crapsey or ‘Awakened Soul’ by Kaiga Sandra.
  • Elegy: written in response to a death and exploring loss, sorrow, and acceptance; for example: ‘Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard’ by Thomas Gray or ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats’ by W. H. Auden.
  • Free verse: has no rhyme scheme and its structure relies on natural speech pattern, for example: ‘The Waste-Land’ by TS Eliot orAfter the Sea-Ship’ by Walt Whitman.
  • Haiku: follows a 3 line, 17 syllable structure: line 1 has five syllables, line 2 has seven syllables, and line 3 has five syllables. They tend to focus on the natural environment and the senses, for example: ‘How Many Gallons’ by Issa or the poems of Basho Matsuo.
  • Limerick: uses five lines: Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables and rhyme with one another. Lines 3 and 4 have five to seven syllables and also rhyme with each other. They follow a AABBA rhyme scheme. Examples include: ‘There was an Old Man of Nantucket’ by anonymous or ‘There was a young lady of Lucca’ by Edward Lear.
  • Ode: writes of something admired or loved and consists of three sections, with irregular line lengths and rhyme patterns. For example: ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by Percy Shelley or ‘Ode to the Confederate Dead’ by Allen Tate.
  • Quatrain: is made up of 4 lines and uses a rhyme scheme, for example: The Tyger’ by William Blake or ‘Leap Before You Look’ by W.H. Auden.
  • Sonnet: is written in 14 lines of iambic pentameter. The English sonnet uses a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Examples include: ‘Sonnet Number 18’ by William Shakespeare or ‘To Fanny’ by John Keats.
  • Terza rima: is made up of tercets (three lined stanzas) often in iambic pentameter. There is no set length as long as it follows its particular rhyme pattern. It follows a chain rhyme scheme ABA BCB CDC…


The function of rhyme:

  • It is pleasant to read or hear.
  • It helps keep the timing or rhythm of a poem.
  • It helps us remember a poem.
  • It can mark the end of a line
  • It helps to create meaning by connecting words.


More poetry resources:


Photo credit: Poetry


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