has been said above that much of the effects of literary texts depend
on various patterns of repetition (see ).
The kind of repetition that most people associate with poetry is the
repetition of sounds, in particular in rhyme. Apart from rhyme, there
are other sound patterns in poetry which create additional meaning,
such as alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia. Such sound effects
always have a specific function in a poem. It is the task of analysis
to explicate such functions, because they, too, are part of what the
poem means, its overall and specific effects.
When two words have the same sound (phoneme) from the last stressed vowel onwards, they are considered to rhyme. In a full rhyme, the consonant preceding the last stressed vowel of the two words is different: night/delight, power/flower and so on.
There are a number of rhyme forms that deviate from the exact observance of the full rhyme.
One talks about a rich rhyme when the consonant before the last stressed vowel is identical: lap/clap, stick/ecclesiastic. When the two rhyme words are in fact the same, it is an identical rhyme. When two rhyme words look and sound the same but have different meanings this is called a homonym. Both rich rhyme and identical rhyme have at times been considered bad form.
(consonance: same consonants
but different stressed vowel)
Rhymes can be on one syllable or on two or three syllables. Rhymes of one identical syllable are called masculine rhymes: street/meet, man/ban, galaxy/merrily. Rhymes of two identical syllables are called feminine rhymes: straining/complaining, slowly/holy. Very rarely there are rhymes with three identical syllables, so-called triple rhymes: icicles/bicycles. The triple rhyme is often used for a humorous effect:
Sound patterns, especially rhyme, help to divide a poem into sections. These sections can help, for instance, to mark various stages of thematic development in a poem: the movement from despair to hope, from description to moral application and so on. This is notably the case in , where the octet and the sestet or the quatrains and the final couplet often form a contrast.
Apart from rhyme, there are other sound patterns that are remarkable in poetry and that are often used to link words which would not otherwise be connected (see also the ). These connections create meaning patterns. Three of these sound patterns shall be considered in more detail here: alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia.
these lines Pope also achieves an onomatopoetic effect,
since the accumulations of the dark and booming u-sound combinations
imitate the “tremendous Sound” of gun, drum, etc. It should
be noted that onomatopoeia only ever works in conjunction with the meaning
of the words used. One cannot recognise onomatopoeia in a language one
does not understand. This has been famously demonstrated by John
Crowe Ransom who changed Tennyson’s onomatopoetic line ”A
murmuring of innumerable bees” into ”A murdering of innumerable
beeves”. Even though only two small changes have been made to
the sound, the meaning of the sentence is completely changed and no
onomatopoetic effect whatsoever remains (cited in Abrams 1999: 199).