Sound can and should enhance meaning in poetry; looking at sound groups reveals that sounds are often —though not necessarily— related to meaning.
pattern: repetition and variation of a motif; repeated sounds must be near enough to each other for the echo to be heard.
sibilants: s sounds (s, c, z, sh)
onomatopoeia: using a word that imitates the sound of what it represents; a word whose sound resembles the sound it denotes.
ooze of oil, clip-clop, crash, whiz, mumble
Dickinson: a fly’s “uncertain stumbling Buzz”
euphony: pleasing, harmonious sounds; but not always matched to meaning, for example with syphilis
cacophony: discordant, harsh sounds
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw. (Milton)
alliteration: repetition of an initial consonant or consonant cluster sound
Billy Blather baked a brick
all of Beowulf Beowulf | Poetry.
assonance: repetition of identical vowel sounds
round vowel sounds
near assonance: long vowel sounds (oo, ee); short, staccato vowel sounds
open wide the golden gates
consonance: same consonant sounds but different vowel sounds in the middle or end of words; harmonious
apples roll down the hill
thirst, ghost, rest
live, move, save
gobbets of blubber
alliteration plus consonance:
near consonance: hard consonant sounds (struck, gut, clock, plucked, crypt); soft consonant sounds (m,n, j); sibilants (s sounds).
dissonance: discordant; not harmonious.
rhyme: two or more words or phrases whose endings match in vowel and consonant sounds (usually accented); repetition of the end sounds of two or more words.
- spelling is irrelevant: all about sound
- dull and clunking when predictable:
when the cooling breeze/whispers through the __________
though my love is true/you make me feel __________
- over-used antithetical pairings:
- rhyme can surprise and delight when fresh and unusual: EMINEM LYRICS – Lose Yourself.
perfect (full, true) rhyme: sound repetition is exact.
slant (near, partial, half, off, oblique) rhyme: final consonant sound is the same but the vowel sound is different; can work especially well to express disappointment or negation
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
vowel rhyme: (see assonance) only the vowel sounds are in common, not the consonant sounds.
starry, barley (also an excellent slant rhyme)
eye rhyme: spellings make words look alike though they don’t sound alike and therefore don’t rhyme at all
rough, dough, bough, through
end rhyme: rhyme at the ends of lines
internal rhyme: rhyme within lines
masculine rhyme: one-syllable end rhyme (one-syllable words or final stressed syllable of a longer word)
feminine rhyme: a rhyme of two or more syllables with the stress not on the last syllable.
and of course we’re not married, we are a pair of scissors
who come together to cut, without towels saying His. Hers. (Anne Sexton)
rhyme scheme: the pattern of a poem’s rhymes, which are identified by letters. The same sounds have the same letters, so the pattern would then be expressed in a series of letters. One stanza might have an abab rhyme scheme, while the next might rhyme bcbc.