English Language
End Rhyme

End Rhyme

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

Understanding End Rhyme in Poetry

End rhyme is a poetic technique that brings closure to a line, much like the phrase "the end" concludes a play or book. This approach is commonly employed by poets and can be seen in many renowned poems, such as "Sonnet 18" by William Shakespeare from 1609:

Should I equate you to a summer's day?
You are fairer and calmer:
The winds may shake May's darling buds away,
But summer's lease is too brief a charm.

The last words of each line rhyme, creating an example of end rhyme. But what motivated Shakespeare to use this technique? What message was he trying to convey?

Examples of End Rhyme

Here are a few more instances of end rhyme. Consider its impact on your understanding of the poem. Does it enhance the flow of the verses? Does it make the poem more harmonious to the ear? Does it emphasize the poet's message?

William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130" from 1609:

The sun's no match to my sweetheart's eyes;
Coral is redder than her lips' guise;
If whiteness is snow, then her breasts are dark;
Her hair is black, though wires may spark.
Roses are pink or white, so fair and rare,
But her cheeks lack roses, I must declare;
Perfumes may please, but not her scent so vile,
My mistress' breath reeks, a burden to smile.
The end rhymes present: dark-spark, rare-declare, vile-smile.

At first, the reader may perceive this poem as a declaration of love for the speaker's "mistress". However, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that Shakespeare is subverting the typical expectations of a love poem.

The use of end rhymes in this poem maintains the illusion of a traditional romantic poem, with each rhyme adding weight to the speaker's emotions towards his lover's features. Its purpose is to support the reader's expectation of a clichéd love poem from Shakespeare's time. But this expectation is then completely reversed once the reader pays attention to the words being said - the unflattering comparisons reveal the satirical nature of the poem.

End rhymes can be used to conform to the norms of a specific style of poem, such as a romantic sonnet, in order to subvert the reader's expectations.

Emily Dickinson's "Poem 313 / I should have been too glad, I see" from 1891:

I should have been too glad, I see
Too elevated for the degree
Of Life's meager rounds,
My little circumference would have disdained
This new boundary and been disdained
The simpler past behind.
The end rhymes present: see-degree, disdained-disdained.

The absence of a final end rhyme in this stanza catches the reader's attention. The rhyme scheme AABCCD creates a pause with lines three and six, drawing attention to the missing end rhyme. This unexpected break surprises the reader, as they expect a repetition of the rhyming pattern.

Thus, end rhymes can be used to draw attention to a particular line that the poet wants the reader to focus on.

Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty" from 1814:

She walks in beauty, like the night sky so dark
Of starry summer evenings, a perfect mark;
The best of bright and dark within her grace,
Meet in her looks and eyes, with tender trace;
Thus softened, to that gentle light
Which earthly joys can't match in might;
The end rhymes present: dark-grace, trace-light, might-match.

Lord Byron creates his ABABAB rhyme scheme with end rhymes to create vivid imagery by comparing the woman's beauty to the night sky. This comparison shouldn't seem as dramatic and grandiose as it does, but end rhymes are used effectively to give that effect.

The use of end rhymes adds a rhythm to the poem, making it feel like a bold declaration of the speaker's affection for the "beautiful" woman. It lends weight to the simile, bringing it to life.

Therefore, end rhymes can be used to add drama or emphasize the importance of a poem.

The rider gazed with eager watch
The bell tower of the Old North Church;
As it stood tall above the graves,
Lonesome and eerie in the summer's calm waves.
And there, as he looked, high up in the tower
A glimmer, then a gleam of light's power!
He climbs on his horse, tugging to turn,
But hesitates and gazes, until full in sight
Another lamp flickers in the bell tower's burn.

The Importance of End Rhyme in Poetry

In poetry, end rhyme is a powerful tool used to enhance the rhythm and musicality of a composition. It involves a repetition of similar sounds at the end of each line, creating a pleasing pattern that draws in the reader or listener. This technique has been used by poets throughout history, including Longfellow in his poem "The Belfry of Bruges" and Lord Byron in "She Walks in Beauty".

The rhyme scheme, AABBCCDCD, employed by Longfellow mirrors the structure used by Byron in his poem. This consistent pattern of end rhymes creates a sense of symmetry and harmony, adding a pleasing effect to the overall composition. The end rhymes also hold significance in the description of a belfry tower, a subject that may be unfamiliar to the readers.

Initially, the poem paints a somber picture of a belfry tower standing beside a gravesite. However, as the poem progresses, a "gleam of light" is introduced and the tone shifts from melancholic to energetic and optimistic. This change is reflected in the rhyme scheme, with the introduction of a DCD rhythm at the end of the poem, mirroring the quickening tempo and the use of the verb "spring" without an end rhyme.

When read aloud, the poem naturally picks up pace from line 7, creating a sense of urgency and movement. This shift in tone and tempo effectively engages the audience and adds to the overall impact of the poem.

Aside from poetry, end rhymes are commonly used in songwriting to create catchy and memorable lyrics. Many popular songs, such as One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe", utilize end rhymes in their composition. This not only makes the lyrics easier to remember for the audience, but also adds a musical and rhythmic quality to the song.

However, not all songs rely on end rhymes. Some songwriters may choose to use slant rhymes, where words share similar, but not identical, sounds, to achieve their desired end rhyme. This allows for more flexibility in songwriting and can add a unique and creative touch to the lyrics.

If you're an aspiring poet or songwriter, incorporating end rhyme into your compositions can elevate the overall impact and engagement of your piece. So go ahead and experiment with different end rhyme schemes to see what works best for your writing style. And don't forget to keep Shakespeare's iconic sonnet 18 in mind, where the end rhymes "day/May" and "temperate/date" perfectly demonstrate the power and beauty of this poetic technique.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime