Rhyme schemes are essential tools in a poet’s toolbox as they set up the basic pattern of rhymes at the end of each line of a poem or song. Each individual may find a certain rhyming scheme which they feel most comfortable using or you may choose which rhyming scheme to use based on the tonality you’d like to give to your work. There are a multitude of different rhyming schemes and all are usually referred to with letters to indicate which verses rhyme, for example a rhyming scheme can be described as ABAB where the same letters rhyme (A rhymes with A and B rhymes with B). If a poem does not have a rhyme scheme it is considered a free verse poem.
Various rhyming schemes:
Here are a few rhyming schemes that you can use:
Couplet: "A,A, B,B C,C D,D ..."
Alternate rhyme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH...
Ballade: Three stanzas of "ABABBCBC" followed by "BCBC".
Chant royal: Five stanzas of "ababccddedE" followed by either "ddedE" or "ccddedE". (The capital letters indicate a line repeated verbatim.)
Shakespearean sonnet: "ABAB CDCD EFEF GG"
McCarron Couplet: "AABBABCCDDCDEEFFEF" which was introduced by James McCarron who put a twist on the classic rhyming couplet pattern.
Enclosed rhyme (also known as enclosing rhyme): "ABBA"
"Fire and Ice" stanza: "ABAABCBCB" which gets its name from Robert Frost’s poem ‘Fire and Ice’.
Keatsian Ode: "ABABCDECDE" which famously appears in John Keat's Ode on Indolence, Ode on a Grecian Urn, and Ode to a Nightingale.
Monorhyme: "A,A,A,A,A...", which is literally an identical rhyme on each line.
Ottava rima: "A,B,A,B,A,B,C,C"
The Raven stanza: "ABCBBB", or "AA,B,CC,CB,B,B" used by Edgar Allan Poe in ‘The Raven’.
Rhyme royal: "ABABBCC"
Scottish stanza: "AAABAB", as used by Robert Burns in works such as "To a Mouse"
Simple 4-line: "ABCB"
Sonnet ABAB CDCD EFEF GG Petrarchan sonnet: "ABBA ABBA CDE CDE" or "ABBA ABBA CDC DCD"
Spenserian sonnet: "ABAB BCBC CDCD EE"
Onegin stanzas: "aBaBccDDeFFeGG" with the lowercase letters representing feminine rhymes and the uppercase representing masculine rhymes, written in iambic tetrameter
Sestina: ABCDEF FAEBDC CFDABE ECBFAD DEACFB BDFECA, the seventh stanza is a tercet where line 1 has A in it but ends with D, line 2 has B in it but ends with E, line 3 has C in it but ends with F
Spenserian stanza: "ABABBCBCCDCDEE"
Terza rima: "ABA BCB CDC ...", ending on "YZY Z", "YZY ZZ", or "YZY ZYZ".
Triplet: "AAA", often repeating like the couplet so “AAA, BBB, CCC”
The Road Not Taken stanza: "ABAAB" which can be found in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, and in Glæde over Danmark by Poul Martin Møller.
Now that you are aware of the many different rhyming schemes that exist, can you tell us which one is used in the famous poem by John Kilmer below? Also, why not try writing your own short poem and find out which rhyming scheme you like the most!
Trees – John Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.