What is an ABAB rhyme scheme? What about AXXA? In this post you’ll learn how to read, recognize, and notate rhyme schemes.
There are just two simple things to remember when we talk about rhyme schemes.
1: Rhyming lines get the same letter
Each rhyme scheme is named with a series of letters, like these examples:
Lines that rhyme with each other get named with the same letter. In an “ABAB” rhyme scheme, for example, lines 1 and 3 rhyme with each other. So do lines 2 and 4.
Shakespeare used this rhyme scheme often:
A O, if I say, you look upon this verse,
B When I, perhaps, compounded am with clay,
A Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
B But let your love even with my life decay…
[from No longer mourn for me when I am dead, aka sonnet #71. written in 1609]
It’s also worth pointing out that, from stanza to stanza or verse to verse of your lyric, each verse can use the same scheme–but any two verses don’t necessarily have to rhyme with each other. You can repeat the rhyme scheme pattern that you used in verse one, but use new sounds to fill that scheme from stanza to stanza. Like this:
Verse One: ABAB
Verse Two: CDCD
And so on.
2: Lines that don’t rhyme with any other line get marked as “X”
One more point before we move on: any line marked with an “X” in a rhyme scheme doesn’t rhyme with any other line. In AXXA, for example, the two middle lines don’t rhyme with each other, and don’t rhyme with the “A” lines either. Since neither line rhymes with anything else in the stanza, they get labeled with “X”.
- You can notate a rhyme scheme by marking lines that rhyme alike with the same letter.
- You can fill a rhyme scheme with fresh sounds each time it recurs. Verse 1 doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme with verse 2.
- Any line marked with an “X” does not rhyme with any other line.
For a list of basic four-line rhyme schemes to try your hand out, check out this post: Have You Mastered All 7 of these Basic Rhyme Schemes?