Poems with Assonance: Definition & Examples

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.

In this lesson, we will examine sound in poetry. Specifically, we'll look at the use of assonance as a means of creating sound patterns and go over its effects in poetry.

Sound in Poetry

If someone were to ask you what makes poetry different from other literature, what would you say? Most people would bring up rhyming, melodies, or some other musical quality. Yes, poems have a different structure from prose, but it is their musical qualities that truly set poems apart from other forms of literature.

Poets can create that musicality in many different ways. The most well-known is creating a rhyme scheme, or a pattern of similar sounds. However, many poems use another method, called assonance. Assonance is the repetition of the same vowel sound in nearby words.

Take a look at the following pairs of words that use assonance:

asleep/tree

Haunt/awesome

Each pair shares the same vowel sound. In the first, the long e sound is repeated. In the second, the au sound occurs in both. Notice how these pairs do not rhyme. There are different consonant sounds around the vowels, which prevents them from rhyming. Also, the specific syllable at which the vowel sound occurs does not matter either. The vowel sound can occur in any part of the word surrounded by any other sound. If the same vowel sound occurs, then it is assonance.

Assonance in Poetry

Assonance can be very useful in poetry. Rhyming can create a definite beat for a poem, but what if you didn't want to create sounds that rhymed in a noticeable way? Think of a catchy song, poem or jingle that you have heard somewhere. Most likely it rhymes. And you probably sing along when you don't even really pay attention to what you are saying. Assonance is a great way to avoid that effect. A poet using assonance can still create sound patterns, but with a less obvious rhythm.

Examples

Assonance can help poems create sounds that are musically pleasant to the ear. Look at the following excerpt from the second stanza of The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe. As you read, try to identify which vowel sounds are being repeated.

Hear the mellow wedding bells

Golden bells!

What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!

Through the balmy air of night

How they ring out their delight!

From the molten - golden notes,

And all in tune

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