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What Is Internal Rhyme?

By Pablo Garcia
Updated May 23, 2024
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In poetry, internal rhyme is when a rhyme occurs within the same line of a single line of verse. The term is meant to distinguish it from the more traditional external rhyme, in which the rhyme occurs on the last syllable of the last word in two separate lines of poetry. Sometimes referred to as “middle rhyme,” internal rhyming may also occur when two words are rhymed in one line, and then rhymed with a third word in the middle of the next line.

Internal rhymimg can be used to heighten the effect of a poem and create a contrast to end rhyme. Unlike traditional external end rhymes, the internal rhyme can occur anywhere in the line that the poet thinks it will provide rhythm or emphasis. In Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas used internal rhyming in the line “the grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother.” English poet Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner also contains examples of internal rhyming. “We were the first that ever burst/Into that silent sea.”

The use of rhyme within a single line may also be used multiple times in a stanza. When used in this way, it often occurs in alternating lines, separated by lines of external rhyme. An excerpt from 19th century English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem The Cloud demonstrates this method of multiple internal rhyming and its rhythmic effects. “I am the daughter of Earth and Water/And the Nursling of the Sky/I pass through the pores of oceans and shores/I change but I cannot die.”

Some poems are composed with what might be called an internal rhyme scheme. The rhyme occurs in the middle and at the end of the first line, and then again in the middle of the next line. American poet Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven used this particular kind of internal rhyming. “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, /And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”

The Raven also contained a heavy use of alliteration and symbolism. Although the poem had its critics, Poe’s poem remains one of the most popular in American literature. With the advent of modern poetry, rhyme schemes and rhyming generally have become less important in poetry. Many respected modern poets such as Dylan Thomas and American poet T.S. Eliot, however, used internal rhyme in their work.

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