Eye Rhyme in Poetry: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:05 Poetry and Rhyme
  • 1:18 Example: 'The Last…
  • 2:07 Example: 'Sonnet 116'
  • 2:44 Example: 'She Walks in Beauty'
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

This lesson looks at one type of rhyme: eye rhyme. The difference between eye rhyme and exact rhyme is explained, with examples of eye rhyme given to illustrate the concept.

Poetry and Rhyme

Rhyme is one of the most useful tools in poetry. It is the repetition of similar sounds in two or more words or phrases. Poets use rhyme to create sound patterns for many reasons, including musicality and emphasizing ideas or themes.

Many poets like to stretch the utility of rhyme and use it in different ways. One such way is to use eye rhyme instead of exact rhyme. Eye rhyme occurs when words use the same spelling for a portion of the word, but the pronunciations are different.

For example, look at the words cough and bough. On paper, they might look like they sound the same because the last halves of the words are spelled identically with -ough. But do they sound the same? Do they rhyme? No, of course not. The two words have a different vowel sound. The spelling is the same, but the pronunciation is different, and the words do not actually rhyme. This is eye rhyme.

Not all poets like to use exact rhyme. Some believe exact rhyme is too limiting or that it creates a singsong aspect to poems, which takes away from the true theme or message. In this way, eye rhyme can be useful in poetry in allowing for more possibilities and changing the sound pattern to prevent predictability.

Example: 'Last Rose of Summer'

Let's look at an example of eye rhyme in the first stanza of the poem 'The Last Rose of Summer' by Thomas Moore.

' 'Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;'

The final words of the second and fourth lines show eye rhyme. Listen to 'alone' and 'gone.' Do they actually rhyme? No, they do not, but they are spelled the same. This is a great example of eye rhyme. Perhaps one of the reasons Moore chose to use eye rhyme was because of his subject matter. Moore is writing about summer fading with a lonely rose left while all the others have wilted, which creates a sad or depressed tone. If his lines rhymed and bounced like a children's song, the overall tone of the poem would be very different from what he is trying to elicit.

Example: 'Sonnet 116'

Another great example of eye rhyme occurs in the first four lines of William Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 116'.

'Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove'

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