Have you ever read a poem and been struck by how the lines seem to rhyme, but not in a way that is immediately obvious? This type of rhyming is called ‘slant rhyme’.
Many people don’t know about this type of rhyme, even though it can be very effective. Slant rhyming can add an extra layer of complexity and beauty to poetry. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what slant rhyme is, how to use it, and explore some examples from famous poems.
The definition of slant rhyme
Slant rhyme is a type of rhyme in which the correspondence between the sounds is close, but not exact. It’s also known as half rhyme, oblique rhyme, partial rhyme, or near rhyme.
Slant rhymes are often used in poetry to create a musical effect or to add variety to the end-sounds of lines. That said, slant rhymes are typically not as easy to detect by ears as perfect rhymes, where the rhyming sounds identical.
An interesting fact about slant rhyme is that its definition has broadened overtime. Traditionally, the definition of slant rhyme is pretty narrow. Rhymes can only be considered slant rhymes if the words end with the same consonant. For examples, “mat” and “cut”, or “worm” and “swarm”.
With the new definition, if the last syllable of the words rhyme, then it is considered a slant rhyme. They can either have similar consonant sounds (consonance) or similar vowel sounds (assonance).
Slant rhyme involving assonance would be something like “hit” and “mid”, while “punch” and “peach” would be a great example for slant rhyme involving consonance.
Slant rhyme vs. Full rhyme
Slant rhyme, also known as partial rhyme or near rhyme, is a type of rhyme in which the end sounds of the words are similar but not identical. Full rhyme, on the other hand, is a type of rhyme in which the end sounds of the words are identical.
Slant rhyme is often used in poetry to create a subtle effect, while full rhyme is more commonly used for emphasis or comedic effect. Both types of rhyme can be effective in different ways, and it is up to the poet to choose which type of rhyme is best suited to the poem.
Why do poets use slant rhyme in their poems?
The main reason why poets use slant rhyme is because it allows them to create a more lyrical sound in their poems. Even though perfect rhyme is more common, sometimes it can sound too sharp or harsh in a poem.
In those situations, slant rhyme is the perfect alternative. When used correctly, slant rhyme can create a beautiful poetic sound that appeals to the reader’s sense of rhythm and melody.
Slant rhyme is not as obvious as perfect rhyme, so it adds a touch of subtlety and an element of surprise. Using slant rhymes also broadens the word choice, adds some variety to the poems and enables poets to express themselves more creatively.
Another good occasion to use slant rhyme is when a poet might want to create an air of ambiguity. By using similar-sounding words that don’t quite rhyme perfectly, he could leave the impression that there are some ideas hidden without actually stating them outright.
How to use slant rhyme in your poems
As you probably see by now, slant rhyme is a powerful tool to have in your poetry arsenal. But how do you use it in your own work?
A good way to find slant rhymes is to use a start with the perfect rhyme first. The poems might sound choppy or forced, but that’s why we’ll transit to slant rhyme later.
Let’s just say you decided to rhyme the words “boat” and “goat.” While that might not make much sense within the context of the poem, now you have the rhyme down, you can start exploring other word choices to make the slant rhyme:
This way, you can add depth and originality to your poems while still keep the rhyme of your work. With a little practice, you’ll be able to incorporate slant rhyme into your poems in a way that is both effective and meaningful.
In the next section, we’re going to look at some great examples of slant rhyme in poetry that you can learn from.
5 examples of slant rhyme in poetry
1. This Little Piggy by Mother Goose
‘This Little Piggy’ is a popular children’s nursery rhyme that makes use of slant rhyme. The slant rhyme between the two words “home” and “none” here helps to create a sing-song rhythm that is easy for children to follow along with.
This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
This little piggy went …
Wee, wee, wee,
all the way home!
2. Hope Is a Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson is one of the poets who most famous for using slant rhyme. The poem “Hope Is a Thing With Feathers” is the perfect example of her skillful use of slant rhyme. In the first stanza, she rhymes “soul” with “all,” the two words that share a similar ending sound but do not rhyme perfectly. This helps to create a sense of musicality and add depth to the meanings of her words.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
You might like: What is Simile in Poetry? (+Example Poems to Learn From)
3. Romeo And Juliet by William Shakespeare
Another great example of slant rhyme can be found in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Act III, Scene 5, on lines 54-55, the words “soul” and “low” are rhymed together. This scene is where Juliet found out that her parents have arranged her to marry Paris. Romeo unexpectedly showed up at the Capulet house, and the rhyme scheme here helps emphasize Juliet’s despair when talking to him.
O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
Either my eyesight fails or thou look’st pale.
4. Lines Written In Dejection by William Butler Yeats
In Yeats’ Lines Written In Dejection, he employed slant rhyme to great effect. The words “bodies” and “ladies” are rhymed together in the first few lines of the poem. This pair of words are similar enough to create a feeling of unease, but they are also different enough to jar the reader out of the poem’s regular rhythm.
When have I last looked on
The round green eyes and the long wavering bodies
Of the dark leopards of the moon?
All the wild witches, those most noble ladies,
For all their broom-sticks and their tears,
Their angry tears, are gone.
The holy centaurs of the hills are vanished;
I have nothing but the embittered sun;
Banished heroic mother moon and vanished,
And now that I have come to fifty years
I must endure the timid sun.
5. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is one of the most famous poems in American literature. Poe uses slant rhyme throughout the poem to create a sense of unease or to suggest the speaker’s deteriorating mental state. For example, in the opening stanza, the words “lore” and “door” have a similar sound but different meanings, which creates a sense of foreboding.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Slant rhyme is a poetic device that can be used to create an interesting and unique effect in your poetry. It’s not as commonly used as other devices, but it can add a level of sophistication and complexity to your work. By using words that are only partially similar in sound, you can add interest and intrigue for your readers. Be sure to experiment with this technique and see what results you can achieve!
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Thomas Dao is the guy who created Poem Home, a website where people can read about all things poetry related. When he’s not busy working on his next project, you can find him reading a good book or spending time with family and friends.