English Language
Eye Rhyme

Eye Rhyme

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The Importance and Complexity of Eye Rhymes in Poetry

A rhyme is the repetition of similar sounds in two or more words. But when the words look like they should rhyme but are pronounced differently, it's called an eye rhyme.

What are Eye Rhymes?

Eye rhymes, also known as visual rhymes or sight rhymes, are a type of rhyme where words appear to rhyme but have different pronunciations.

Exploring Eye Rhymes in Poetry

To understand the linguistic significance of eye rhymes, let's look at some lines from G. Nolst Trenite's "Drop Your Foreign Accent." This clever poem satirizes the complexities of the English language.

Compare lover, cover, and rover, Or leeches, breeches, wise, and prices, Chalice versus police and lice; Camel, constable, and unstable, Principle, disciple, and label.

While these words may seem to rhyme, their pronunciation sets them apart. For example:

  • The word "cover" has a different stressed vowel sound than the word "rover."
  • The word "police" has a different stressed vowel sound than the word "lice."
  • The word "unstable" has a different stressed vowel sound than the word "label."

Some poems specifically highlight eye rhymes and the intricacies of the English language. "OUGH: A Fresh Hack at an Old Knot" by Charles Battell Loomis is a perfect example of this.

I'm taught "plough" is pronounced as "plow." "That's easy when you know," I say, sounding proud. My teacher says in that case, "OUGH" is simply "oo." And then I laugh and tell him, "This English makes me cough."

More Examples of Eye Rhymes

Here are some more words that are eye rhymes:

  • Cough, rough, plough, dough
  • Lose and rose
  • Alone and gone
  • Sew and pew
  • Hearth and earth
  • Comb and bomb
  • Crown and mown
  • You and thou
  • Go and do
  • Brood and blood
  • Clover and lover

The Evolution of Eye Rhymes

Historic rhymes, or perfect rhymes that have turned into eye rhymes as the English language evolved, are also noteworthy.

Ernest Dowson's "Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae" is a good example:

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng, Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind ...

To today's English speakers, "wind" (w-in-d) and "mind" (m-ine-d) are eye rhymes, but at the time this poem was written, "wind" was typically pronounced as "wined." This would have been a perfect rhyme to listeners at the time.

William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 1" is another historic example of eye rhyme:

From fairest creatures we desire increase, That thereby beauty's rose might never die, But as the riper should by time decease, His tender heir might bear his memory;

In this sonnet, "die" and "memory" would have been a perfect rhyme, but as the English language evolved, their pronunciations changed and they became eye rhymes.

Shakespeare was also known for his use of eye rhymes in his poetry, like in "Sonnet 19":

Devouring time, blunt thou the lion's paws, And make the earth devour her own sweet brood; Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws, And burn the long-lived phoenix in her blood.

In this sonnet, "brood" and "blood" are eye rhymes, adding a visually pleasing element to the stanza. While they may not be pronounced exactly the same, they still create a sense of rhyme and flow.

The Significance of Eye Rhymes

Eye rhymes add depth and interest to poetry, challenging the idea of traditional perfect rhymes and showcasing the ever-evolving nature of the English language. So the next time you come across an eye rhyme in a poem, take a moment to appreciate its significance.

Eye Rhymes: The Visual Delight of Poetry

When we think of poetic devices, perfect rhymes often come to mind as the most pleasing to the ear. However, there is another type of rhyme that adds a unique visual element to poetry - eye rhymes. These are words that are spelled similarly but pronounced differently, creating a beautiful visual effect for readers. Not only do eye rhymes enhance the aesthetic appeal of a poem, but they also aid in memorization. As the English language continues to evolve, it is likely that words we currently consider perfect rhymes will become eye rhymes in the future. Let's delve deeper into this poetic device.

What are Eye Rhymes?

An eye rhyme, also known as a visual rhyme or sight rhyme, occurs when two or more words are spelled almost identically, but have different stressed vowel sounds and therefore different pronunciations. This creates the illusion of rhyming when read visually, but not when spoken aloud.

The Purpose of Eye Rhymes

The primary purpose of eye rhymes is to add a visual element to poetry, making it more enjoyable for readers. They also serve as mnemonic devices, helping readers remember the words and phrases in a poem. By creating a pattern of visually repeated words, eye rhymes can enhance the overall structure and flow of a poem.

Examples of Eye Rhymes

An example of an eye rhyme is the words 'lose' and 'rose'. Visually, they have identical endings, but they are pronounced differently (l-oo-z vs. r-oh-z). Other common examples include 'tough' and 'though', 'maid' and 'said', and 'breath' and 'death'. As the language continues to change, these words may eventually become perfect rhymes instead of eye rhymes.

Eye Rhymes vs. Perfect Rhymes

It is important to note the key difference between eye rhymes and perfect rhymes. Perfect rhymes have both similar spelling and pronunciation, while eye rhymes only have similar spelling. The similarity in spelling is what creates the visual effect, rather than a true rhyming sound. This sets eye rhymes apart from other types of rhyming.

In Conclusion

While eye rhymes may not be as musically satisfying as perfect rhymes, they contribute to the visual pleasure of poetry. They are a testament to the ever-evolving nature of the English language and add a unique layer to the world of poetry. So next time you read a poem, keep an eye out for those sneaky eye rhymes that add a little something extra to the reading experience.

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