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Monday, October 12, 2009

English Poetry Versification - Part III

5. Sound Effects in Poetry

Alliteration
Assonance
Cacophony
Consonance
dissonance
Euphony
Onomatopoeia
Rhymes
Rhythm
Sibilance

Have you ever found out that when you read a poem aloud you gain further insight into its meaning as compared to when the same poem was read silently? Also when you see a poem do these initial thoughts invade your mind like: How do I read this poem? How should it sound? Well, for me I do. Just think about it. These are valid questions because subconsciously acknowledging the fact that poetry is meant to be read aloud, in order to get the full meaning of what the poem has conveyed in its imagery.

Poetry is the conduit for all of our senses. We plug into it via its imagery. Imagery is often described as word pictures. In this regard poets use language in such a way as to create vivid pictures in the minds of the audience. Poets use imagery that calls upon the senses of smell, touch, and taste as well as the use of visual and aural imagery. Poets create sound pictures to make us hear something in our imagination; so let us talk more about aural imagery and how poets use auditory words or words that talk about sound and their effects. Whenever there is a discussion on aural sounds in poetry there are two words with which we must be familiar: meter and rhyme.

When there is a basic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem we refer to the poem as having a certain meter. When you read the poem this rhythmic pattern is often different from rhythms you would have used in normal speech. This interplay between these two rhythm patterns helps to give the poem its unique quality. For example, if you were to read the Versification poem the metrical pattern is one which alternates between stressed (/) and unstressed (u) syllables, e.g.

Value and measure verses as you should
/ u u / u / / u u /
each word, or sound that has fallen from lips;
u / u / u u / u u /
run as you like under the old stave wood;
/ u u / / u u / / /
stressed and unstressed feet, this way the voice dips;
/ u u / / u / u / /

If you were to read the poem following this pattern strictly the result would be silly. It would sound like:

Value andmea surever sesas youshould eachword orsound thathas fallen fromlips

But it you read it ‘naturally’ this pattern influences how it comes out in the end.

The poem, Indian corn has another basic pattern in its meter. I goes:

He eats the cob the proper way
u / u / u / u /
By, holding ends real tight;
u / u / / /
Each corn from ear he bites and chews,
u / u / u / u /
Crisscrossing rows in sight;
/ / u / u /

It gives the poem a different kind of flow from the first and is more suitable to a ballad.

Most modern poems don’t follow a strict metrical pattern, but the principle is important. The patterns of meter and of rhythm all help to make a poem more powerful and beautiful.

Another powerful effect is achieved in the poem, The Cry of the Birdies using a simple u/ u/ rhythm that it sounds like a nursery rhyme. Here it goes:

A fluffing, puffing and singing
u / u / u / / u
Tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet where is my share;
/ / / / u / u /
For it is only fair and square.
u u / / u / u /

To get the feel of the general rhythm of a poem is more important than working out the meter. This is because the meter is only a tool to achieve the rhythm. If the poet wants to race along the poet will use a combination of meter, sentence structure, length of line and other ‘techniques’ to achieve this. So:

A fluffing, puffing and singing
Tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet where is my share;
For it is only fair and square.

Has a different rhythm from:

Charts, scrubs, gloves, pens and thermometer she used all
Those notes she wrote with loving care and compassion
Nightingale’s sweet sounds fade softly in night’s snowfall
Feelings bring on tears that speak of scary notion.

(From the poem, Beloved Sister)

She stands
Beside
The quiet stream
Holds lily pad
Within her hand
Hiding her face
From the glaring eyes
Of dawn

(From the poem, The Reverie)

Sound Effects in poetry come from the essential elements of repetition and variations. As students of poetry when you begin analyzing the basic elements of poetry you should reflect firstly on what poetry is all about. We may want to accept the view that poetry is literature in metrical form or as a composition forming rhythmic verses or cadence as in free verse poetry. Let’s say it differently, a poem is something that follows a particular flow of rhythm, meter or cadence when compared to prose, where there is no such restriction, and the content of the piece flows according to the story, a poem may or may not have a story, but definitely has a structured method of writing.

The use of sound effects in poetry such as alliteration, assonance, cacophony, consonance, dissonance, euphony, onomatopoeia, rhymes, rhythm, and sibilance create a pleasing effect when poetry is read aloud. Please bear in mind that these various sound effects are not all to be found in one poem. Poets more often than not, would pick what sound effects to incorporate in the poem; whether one, two, three or more. As we explore these sound effects with their definitions you will find examples of them taken from a variety of poems you may or may not have read. Links to these poems are provided to facilitate the rereading of them.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words, but the surrounding consonant sounds are different.

Him crossing glory’s open door (This Fort)
We heard about Hillary and Norgay (Tuakau Honey Jar First to Ever Rest)

Consonance is the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession.

When I putt green grass and pulled the weeds (Mowing)
Of French, Spanish, and English origin, (Hurricane Preparedness Watch)
Toads paddle amid the foam (Musing in the Blooming Forest)

Alliteration
is the repetition of initial consonant sounds. The sound effects of alliteration may help to tie two or more lines together by repeating the beginning sound. Do believe me when I said that I did not set out from the outset to use this technique. It became apparent when I re-read the poems aloud. Here are two examples of alliteration found in poems I have written:

With wrinkles warping
wasting what was
wonderful wear
of roses...withered, warped
we wished winkles would

Please go away!

These vampires
Shrouded with great mystery
They try to dash the hopes
Of medicine men in search
For some miracle and a cure

When wrinkles walking

All over body parts

are no more

(From the poem, Wrinkles)

When I putt green grass and pulled the weeds

(From the poem, Mowing)

William Langland is known as the grand-master of the alliteration technique. In his poem, The Piers Plowman provides many examples of this technique.

In a summer season when the sun was mild
I clad myself in clothes as I’d become a sheep;
In the habit of a hermit unholy of works,
Walked wide in this world, watching for wonders.
And on a May morning on Malvern hills,
There befell me as by magic a marvellous thing:
I was weary of wandering and went to rest
At the bottom of a broad bank by a brook's side,
And as I lay lazily looking in the water
I slipped into a slumber, it sounded so pleasant.
There came to me reclining there a most curious dream
That I was in a wilderness, nowhere that I knew;
But as I looked into the east, up high toward the sun,
I saw a tower on a hill-top, trimly built;
A deep dale beneath, a dungeon tower in it,
With ditches deep and dark and dreadful to look at.
A fair field full of folk I found between them,
Of human beings of all sorts, the high and the low,
Working and wandering as the world requires.


Sibilance is a special case of consonance, the use of hissing sounds created by the sibilant sounds of (s) and (sh)

Adam’s tassel has curls on top
He grills, or pops or boils with thyme
Crisscrossing rows in sight

(Indian Corn)

On these precious, treacherous rocks for sure (Ode to the Ghost of Sam Lord)
Atlas! Pastures, hillsides, fields and gardens are green (Blissful Countryside)

I have never come across anybody who doesn’t like rhymes. Have you? When speaking of rhymes such things become the focus:

- Definition for rhyme
- Rhyme schemes
- Types of rhyme schemes
- Rhyme positions
- Rhyme genders
- Rhyme types

Rhyme is the combination of assonance and consonance as well as being the repetition of similar sounds in two or more words.

Slant rhyme is known by such names as half rhyme, sprung rhyme, near rhyme, oblique rhyme, off rhyme or imperfect rhyme. A slant rhyme is when either the vowels or the consonants of stressed syllables are identical. Many slant rhymes are also eye rhymes. W. B Yeats made slant rhymes very popular in his era. In his poetry he mixed slant rhymes with regular rhymes, assonance and para rhymes as shown below:

When have I last looked on
The round green eyes and the long wavering bodies
Of the dark leopards of the moon?
All the wild witches, those most noble ladies,
For all their broom-sticks and their tears,
Their angry tears, are gone.


(W. B Yeats, Lines Written in Dejection)

Here are some other examples of slant rhymes used by a lesser known poet as shown below:

The heavy ruin plays on most CDees
To cue the minds to graves with drab cor
As fingers scratched for life amid debris
They longed once more for blissful days of yore.

(From the poem, Humanity Rose)


This tendency to live the name
Can give a person shame or fame;
In Ashanti the name is blamed
For types of traits, deemed so disdained;
And so, Tonsillitis Jackson
Test, came up with same condition

(From the poem, That Name)


Para rhyme is a technique devised by Edmund Blunden to describe a near rhyme in which the consonants in two words are the same, but the vowels are different. This type of rhyme is sometimes referred to as double consonance. William Owen and Dylan Thomas shaped their poems with bounteous supplies of the para rhyme as evident from in exerts from their poems shown below:

Earth’s wheels run oiled with blood. Forget we that.
Let us lie down and dig ourselves in thought.
Beauty is your and you have mastery,
Wisdom is mine and I have mystery.
We two will stay behind and keep our troth.
Let us forego men’s minds that are brute’s natures,
Be we not swift with swiftness of the tigress.
Let us break ranks from those who trek from progress.
Miss we the march of this retreating world
Into old citadels that are not walled.
Let us lie out and hold the open truth.
Then when their blood hath clogged the chariot wheels
We will go p and wash them from deep wells.
What though we sink from men as pitchers falling
Many shall raise us up to be their filling
Even from wells we sunk too deep for war
Even as One who bled where no wounds were

(Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen)

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead mean naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

(And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas)

And as usual I like to cite some parts of my poems that do showcase the para rhyme technique as shown below:

With great haste I rolled on the grass;
Into some smelly pile of crap,
Cow down, in my hair, totally gross.
Reached for the shears to have hair crop;
Ball eagle lands on top my head,
And hitched me up with riding hood.

(From the poem, Shack Shack Tree Mishap)


Rhyme schemes are handy tools for rhyming in poetry. It facilitates in synchronizing and distributing the sound effects given off by the rhyming of words. It is consistent throughout the entire poem. Poems with unvarying patterns to rhyming words throughout the verses in every stanza of the poem can be said to have a rhyme scheme.

Rhyme schemes are labeled according to their rhyme sounds with letters of the alphabet to set them apart from others that may appear in the poem. See examples below:

One day to go, meanwhile I pat my cat; a
Sun hot as hell is driving me insane; b
This waiting is making me really fat; a
Chris, are you coming on that Boeing plane? b

I shall welcome him with an airport hug; a
High from the sky he comes before the spring; b
While I hope for hugs, I don’t want a shrug; a
Smile and dance I will, when 'Merry Men' sing. b

Could musing be causing my head to spin? a
Should I kiss his tangled hair in the breeze? b
Will I see smiles and no frowns near his chin? a
Still I think, I could get thrills from his tease. b

(From the poem, Tension)

The rhyme scheme sets the pattern for the number of verses for the poem. If the rhyme scheme has more than four lines then the alphabetical arrangement continues with the letters c, d, e, f, g, h and so on, but every time the rhyme sound is repeated the alphabetical letter remains the same as shown in the example below:

The tranquility of valley and hills, a
Allows the mind to wander like the clouds, b
Above the tree tops with their many thrills, a
As nervous leaves rustle in mystic shrouds. b
They shadow time each passing day anew, c (rhyme scheme ababcdecde)
And patiently wait for the rising sun, d
To fill their chlorophyll sacs to the brim; e
They thirst for summer rains and morning dew, c
To spark their blooms before the day is done, d
With Hawaiian pride that glows from each limb. e

There are gardens ablaze with rainbow hue; a
Around mansions tall and at cottage doors, b
Bringing hope to the soul with every view, a
These gems of nature, everyone adores b
The blooms of hibiscus, across the land, c (rhyme scheme ababcdecde)
Are apparels of celestial light! d
Heavenly bliss wrapped up in each flower; e
Displays the glory of God’ master plan; c
For we are never alone in His sight, d
And each flower that opens shows His power. e

(From the poem, Ode to the Hibiscus Bush)

Today I am feeling a little low a
I find it very hard to sleep and rest b
And penned this poem with beats that are slow; c
Surely, it is not the amateur’s best! b
Poems you know do have a unique way d
Of, freeing the mind from the enclosed box; e
Such creativity is on display; d (rhyme scheme abcbdedefgfghh)
So one behaves like a crafty old fox. e
What sadness do we see on faces here? f
He is gone, so too is his shaven face. g
Silver buckles no longer shine, my dear f
From the earth too are his footsteps and pace; g
He parades in the celestial sky; h
So he had to say this final goodbye. h

(From the sonnet, Sadness)

The poems above show examples of a regular rhyme scheme. Poems that have no regular rhyme schemes can be called rhyming poems as shown in the example below:

Water glycerin oil or gel, a
Which one is it you cannot spell? a
So rub the neck before the bell, a
‘Cause tap is slow, she give a yell; a
Who or what am I, can you tell? a (rhyming poem)

Lather me up as well as down; a
On my face to look like a clown; a
Then wash between those lines and curves, b
And don’t get on my edgy nerves; b
Now that you have eaten hors d’oeuvres! b

(From the poem, What is my Name)

Rhyme position identifies the precise location of the rhyme on the verse. When rhymes fall on the first words of verses they are called initial rhymes or beginning rhymes. When the rhyming occurs on the last words in the verses they are called end rhymes or terminal rhymes. When rhymes occur within the verses they are called internal rhymes. See examples below:

One day to go, meanwhile I pat my cat;
Sun hot as hell is driving me insane;
This waiting is making me really fat;
Chris, are you coming on that Boeing plane?
I shall welcome him with an airport hug;
High from the sky he comes before the spring; (initial rhymes)
While I hope for hugs, I don’t want a shrug;
Smile and dance I will, when 'Merry Men' sing.
Could musing be causing my head to spin?
Should I kiss his tangled hair in the breeze?
Will I see smiles and no frowns near his chin?
Still I think, I could get thrills from his tease.

One day to go, meanwhile I pat my cat;
Sun hot as hell is driving me insane;
This waiting is making me really fat;
Chris, are you coming on that Boeing plane?
I shall welcome him with an airport hug;
High from the sky he comes before the spring; (end rhymes)
While I hope for hugs, I don’t want a shrug;
Smile and dance I will, when 'Merry Men' sing.
Could musing be causing my head to spin?
Should I kiss his tangled hair in the breeze?
Will I see smiles and no frowns near his chin?
Still I think, I could get thrills from his tease.

One day to go, meanwhile I pat my cat;
Sun hot as hell is driving me insane;
This waiting is making me really fat;
Chris, are you coming on that Boeing plane?
I shall welcome him with an airport hug;
High from the sky he comes before the spring; (internal rhymes)
While I hope for hugs, I don’t want a shrug;
Smile and dance I will, when 'Merry Men' sing.
Could musing be causing my head to spin?
Should I kiss his tangled hair in the breeze?
Will I see smiles and no frowns near his chin?
Still I think, I could get thrills from his tease.

(From the poem, Tension)

If the rhyming words in the verses end with unstressed syllables that rhyme is called a feminine rhyme. If the rhyming words end with stressed syllables the rhyme is called a masculine rhyme. See examples below:

STAND still, and I will read to thee
A lecture, Love, in Love's philosophy.
These three hours that we have spent,
Walking here, two shadows went
Along with us, which we ourselves produced.
But, now the sun is just above our head,
We do those shadows tread,
And to brave clearness all things are reduced. (masculine rhymes)
So whilst our infant loves did grow,
Disguises did, and shadows, flow
From us and our cares ; but now 'tis not so.

That love hath not attain'd the highest degree,
Which is still diligent lest others see.

(John Donne, A Lecture upon a Shadow)

Oh, what a day this has been, very mean;
Began this day so friendly and so keen,
Until, some fiend stuck me hard with a pin; (masculine rhymes)
Such an assault can only be a sin.

Battered unjustly in cyber-valley
From claws, and left half-dead, the finale (feminine rhymes)
Think this some sort of a conspiracy
Ponder I must over the lunacy.

(From the Hendianne sonnet, Irritation)

A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth; (feminine rhymes)
A man in hue, all 'hues' in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

(William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20: A woman’s face with nature’s own hand)

See the continuation under English Poetry Versification Part III-B

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