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Jan's Master Class--RHYME SCHEME

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:15 pm
by glorybee
Rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words at the ends of the lines in a poem. It’s indicated by assigning letters to sets of rhyming words. This won’t be a very long lesson, as rhyme scheme is a fairly simple concept—but as usual, I’ll be encouraging you to break out of old habits, to stretch, to grow.

Let’s examine the rhyme scheme of a typical limerick, to see how it works. Here’s a nice clean one by Edward Lear:

There was an Old Man who supposed, A
That the street door was partially closed; A
But some very large rats, B
Ate his coats and his hats, B
While that futile old gentleman dozed A

You can see that supposed, closed, and dozed all rhyme, and therefore they’ve all been assigned the letter “A”. Likewise, rats and hats rhyme, so they get a “B”. We’d write the rhyme scheme of a limerick as aabba.

Couplets, by definition, have an aa rhyme scheme. Here’s an example from the king of short, humorous poetry, Ogden Nash:

The cow is of the bovine ilk; A
One end is moo, the other, milk. A

Of course, 2-line poems are rare, but it’s quite common to find a poem made up of a series of couplets. I’ll bet you’re very familiar with this one:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house A
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. A
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care B
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; B
The children were nestled all snug in their beds C
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads… C

Some kinds of poems have specifically prescribed rhyme schemes; a Shakespearean sonnet, for example, is abab cdcd efef gg. Several people on this site have attempted sestinas, villanelles, and pantoums, each with their own specific rhyme schemes. Those of you who enjoy experimenting with new forms of poetry and who like working within a certain structure may consider researching those forms and attempting one. I’ll whet your appetite with a recent entry by newcomer (and rapidly rising) Sonya Leigh: Of Gifts Divine (a villanelle). And here is a sestina by Henry Clemmons--gorgeous. Leave him a comment, please--he's not here nearly often enough.

Fancy new verse forms are fun, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the most common kind of rhymed poetry in the Writing Challenge is made up of a series of quatrains. Even though quatrains only have 4 lines, there are several possible rhyme schemes. If you’re used to writing aabb quatrains, like this:

To God be the glory, great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His son
Who yielded His life, an atonement for sin
And opened the life-gate that all may go in...

Think about writing an abab quatrain next time. Like this:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed…

Or you could write in abcb quatrains:

Rejoice, ye pure in heart
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing
Your festal banner wave on high
The cross of Christ your King…

Oh, there are so many ways that you can mix it up! Other common quatrain rhyme schemes are aaba, abba, and even aaab. With an aaab quatrain, the ”b” word often becomes the rhyme in the next stanza, which goes bbbc, followed by a cccd verse, and so on in a lovely, rhyming chain.

(Can you think of other rhyme schemes that would form a chain?)

Go wild! And of course, there are rhyme schemes for 5- and 6-line poems, and 13-line poems, and any other length of rhyming poem, too. It’s usually best to use the same rhyme scheme for each stanza, but there’s nothing that says you can’t add...

~a refrain with a different rhyme scheme (and meter, perhaps)
~a little couplet at the end of a series of quatrains
~a 5th line every other stanza
~something else to "shake up" the rhyme scheme a bit

What I’m saying, I guess, is that the judges will appreciate variety in the poems they read, and that finding a creative rhyme scheme is definitely one way to add variety to your poetry.

Homework: Write a poem with a rhyme scheme that you’ve never attempted before. You’re on your honor here—I have no way to check! OR link to a Challenge piece that has a unique rhyme scheme. OR ask a question, or respond to something I wrote about rhyme scheme.

A reminder that although the previous classes are now gone forever as threads, I’ve got them compiled into one long Word document, and I’ll gladly send the document to you free of charge. Just PM me with your e-mail address, and I’ll send it right along.

Next week: Setting

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:04 am
by GShuler
I think you'll find, without a doubt,
Your clothes look tacky inside-out.

That's just a teaser. Now I'll get serious.

At limericks my talent is fine...
I write them each night as I dine.
But it seems rather poor
That right after line four
It never fails that I get too many words in the last line.

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:08 am
by GShuler
Here is my real attempt at a poem style I've never tried. I hope the subject can be forgiven. I'm living this poem at the moment. Keep my wife and I in your prayers.

Death Watch

I try, I try to bring you cheer
when all I really feel is fear
because I know the time is near
when you are going to leave.

Already my heart wants to grieve,
but I dare not let you perceive
the sorrow mixed within the weave
of wanting you to smile.

Our stand of faith throughout this trial
Is based on Jesus, not denial.
so bear with me as all the while
I try to bring you cheer.

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:26 am
by glorybee
Gerald, your limerick is so delightful!

As for your "chain rhyme" poem--beautifully and tenderly written. I love that the 4th line of each stanza, in addition to introducing a new rhyme, also varies the meter, causing the reading to stop for a moment to sink it in.

The subject--heartbreaking. We are certainly praying for you.

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:36 am
by hwnj
While I have written a couple of acrostics before, (not for FW,) I had never done one with multiple words. When I counted up the letters in "United States of America" and found that there were 21 letters, the sestina did not even cross my mind, so, for the first time ever, I wrote a poem in rhyming triplets. Yes, there is one point where six lines in a row rhyme, but it simply happened that way because of what I was trying to communicate at that point.

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:35 am
by glorybee
Thanks, Holly, for your very well-contructed acrostic with a unique aaabbbcccddd rhyme scheme.

If you all haven't read it yet, stop in and take a look at Holly's poem--it's got one awesome kicker!

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:21 am
by Symphonic
It’s been a long time since I made a serious attempt to write a rhyming poem. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever attempted this rhyme scheme (a relatively simple one, I realize!), so here goes:

Mere notes upon the page are mute
Without a master’s art to bring
To life the lifeless stroke of pen, or sing
The words with lyre or lute–
To mold the real out of imagining.

We too are unvoiced, tuneless notes
Upon an unheard, unsung page,
Mute instruments upon an empty stage–
Until the Music Master invokes
His power to mold our song into His image.

Carol S.

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:08 am
by glorybee
Oh, Carol! That's so beautiful! Love the abbab rhyme an unusual rhyme scheme like that, the ear doesn't necessarily "anticipate" the upcoming rhyme, but when it encounters one, it's a delightful little gift.

And as a fellow music lover, I really enjoyed the gorgeous metaphor. Really, really well done!

I'm a person who admires wonderful poetry, but can't write it without great difficulty. I'm curious; how long did it take you to write that?

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:38 am
by glorybee
Chrissy--how wonderful to see you stop by here! Welcome!

That's a gorgeous poem, Chrissy, so full of peaceful and serene images. The abab rhyme scheme seems very natural here. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:05 pm
by Symphonic
Thanks so much, Jan, for your kind words about my poem.

In answer to your question... I started mulling over the idea on Sunday evening, so that when I sat down to write it yesterday afternoon, I had all but the last two lines. I finished it when I got home from choir rehearsal last night.

Thinking about rhyme scheme reminded me of T. S. Eliot’s masterful use of it in “Ash Wednesday.” It’s a six-part work, and his use of rhyme (and language in general!) is complex, moving and profound. Part I begins:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Part I concludes, several stanzas later:

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Looking over the poem in its entirety, I notice that almost every stanza employs a different rhyme scheme... but I had never thought about this before. Thanks for reminding me!

Carol S.

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:08 pm
by Verna
I was going to try to write one, but Carol's was so beautiful, I decided to read it again and scold my muse for being so mundane, and maybe try again...later.

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:40 pm
by glorybee
Oh, please try again, Verna! You're a wonderful poet!

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:26 pm
by Verna
Just for you, Jan! I wasn't reaching for a compliment. Sometimes I'm truly awed by the talent here at Faithwriters. I feel like I've been blessed to have the technical background and the help of fellow faithwriters here, along with the challenges, to improve my writing. I've worked to become a better writer, still admiring, without being jealous :-) the creative gifts I see in others.

I read some poems from a master’s pen,
That like a mighty ocean ebbed and flowed
With pictures piercing deep within my heart,
And wished that gift were given as my art.

I watched a patient spider weave her web;
Unceasingly she plied her silken thread.
“I’ll take my small creative gift,” I said,
“And gladly weave together words instead.”

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:34 pm
by glorybee
Lovely, Verna!

I share your sentiments, 100% This is the best site ever, with unbeleivable talent abounding. I'm particularly in awe of good poets--as I said, I've tried a few poems, but it's HARD WORK.

Posted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:55 am
by lthomas
My hats again off to poets, who can rhyme words and give them both profound and beautiful meanings. Here’s my assignment with aa, bb, aa, rhyme scheme. PS - I have no idea where the thought for this rhyme came from, but it would not go away until I put it down on paper. :?

My heart stopped at what Mother had said
Still in the womb, she wanted me dead.
My being born to have an earthly life
Was to bring to her unwanted strife.
My Father in heaven simply shook His head
And brought me back home to Him instead.