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Monorhyme

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English

A monorhyme poem is when a poem uses the same end rhyme in each verse or even the same end rhyme for the whole poem.

Read the following poem, 'Silent Silent Night' by William Blake (1863). What can you notice about its rhyme scheme?

Silent Silent Night

Quench the holy light

Of thy torches bright

For possessd of day

Thousand spirits stray

That sweet joys betray

Why should joys be sweet

Used with deceit

Nor with sorrows meet

But an honest joy

Does itself destroy

For a harlot coy

(William Blake, 'Silent Silent Night', 1863)

In this poem, Blake uses an identical rhyme for each verse. Because of this, we can say that the rhyme scheme is AAA BBB CCC (each line of each stanza ends in an identical rhyme) and, therefore, the poem is in monorhyme.

A rhyme scheme is a pattern used for structuring a poem. A poem's rhyme scheme is indicated by letters of the alphabet: ABABAB for alternating rhymes, AAA for matching rhymes and so on.

Monorhyme, moonlit night scene with lamp, StudySmarterSilent Silent Night JW - StudySmarter Originals

Monorhymes and Identical Rhyming

Let's take a look at each individual verse of Blacke's 'Silent Silent Night'.

Verse 1

Silent Silent Night

Quench the holy light

Of thy torches bright

The final word of each line ends in 'ight' ('Night'; 'light'; 'bright'). These words are identical rhymes because they share the same sound / ai / and end in the same consonant / t /.

Identical rhymes share the same sound and end in the same consonant.

Verse 2

For possessd of day

Thousand spirits stray

That sweet joys betray

The identical rhyme contains the sound / ei / ('day'; 'stray'; 'betray') and ends with the same consonant, the letter y.

'possessd' in the 1st line of the 2nd verse is missing an 'e' (possessed): Blake did not rely on standard spelling or punctuation, so often his words will appear misspelt or strange.

Verses 3 and 4

Now look at the last two verses, can you identify the monorhyme in each of them?

Why should joys be sweet

Used with deceit

Nor with sorrows meet

But an honest joy

Does itself destroy

For a harlot coy

In verse 3, the monorhyme contains the sound / i: / ('sweet'; 'deceit'; 'meet') and the same final consonant, 't'.

In verse 4, the monorhyme contains the sound / ɔɪ / ('joy'; 'destroy'; 'coy') and the same final consonant, 'y'.

Earlier examples of Monorhyme

Monorhymes also appear in earlier works by Shakespeare and John Donne.

Shakespeare uses monorhyme in a riddle that the Prince of Morroco reads out from a scroll in the Merchant of Venice:

All that glisters is not gold,

Often you have heard that told;

Many a man his life hath sold

But my outside to behold:

Gilded tombs do worms infold.

Had you been as wise as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgment old,

Your answer had not been inscroll'd:

Fare you well, your suit is cold.

(Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, 1597)

As you can see, every line rhymes identically, the final words all ending in '-old' or '-oll'd' (inscroll'd).

Monorhyme, the Prince of Morrocco and Portia in the Merchant of Venice, StudySmarterFare you well, your suit is cold JW, public domain via Canva.com

John Donne uses monorhyme in his satirical 'letter-poems' (or epistolary satire) sent to friends and fellow poets; in the example below he regrets his loss of inspiration:

Like one who in her third widowhood doth profess

Herself a nun, tied to retiredness,

So affects my Muse, now, a chaste fallowness;

Since she to few, yet to too many hath shown,

How love-song weeds and satiric thorns are grown,

Where seeds of better arts were early sown.

(John Donne, excerpt from a letter to his friend Rowland Woodward, 1590s)

Unlike Shakespeare's riddle in the previous example, Donne's 'letter', or poem, is divided into stanzas of 3 lines, each of which shares a rhyming sound in the last word: 'profess', 'retiredness', and 'fallowness' in the first stanza, 'shown', 'grown', and 'sown' in the second stanza, and so on.

Note: 'stanza' and 'verse' can be used interchangeably.

In the opening verses Donne retains the identical rhyme. However, due to necessity or experimentation, as he progresses (the poem runs to 12 stanzas in total) he resorts to less identical rhymes:

There is no virtue but religion.

Wise, valiant, sober, just, are names, which none

Want, which want not vice-covering discretion.

'Religion' in the first line and 'discretion' in the second line share the same ending '- ion'. However, although the end rhyme of the second line, 'none', sounds the same, it is non-identical in its end spelling.

This occurs again in another verse, and then becomes more noticeable in the 10th stanza:

So works retiredness in us; To roam

Giddily and be everywhere, but at home,

Such freedom doth a banishment become.

The spelling is again non-identical: 'roam' does not share the same ending with 'home' and 'become'. Furthermore, 'home' does not really sound like 'become'.

This gradual change to non-identical rhyme might also have been deliberate, to emphasize his loss of inspiration.

At some time in the past, these words may have rhymed perfectly but over time the pronunciation has changed so they cease to rhyme in modern pronunciation; these are called historical rhymes.

Later Examples of Monorhyme

If you look back at the examples by Blake and Shakespeare to see how many syllables there are in each line, you will see that Shakespeare uses seven, while Blake only five.

Now compare with the number of syllables used per line in the following excerpt from William Gay's (1865-1897) 'The Sorrowful Fate of Bartholomew Jones'.

Bartholemew Jones made his money in mines,

And although he has left us his fame still shines

As a man who was knowing in various lines.

It wasn't his line to write or to spell,

To teach or to preach, to dig or to fell,

But to handle his shares, and to keep out of hell.

He knelt every day at the foot of the Throne

(To use his own words), yet he wore (it was known)

His garments of grace or a heart made of stone.

(William Gay, excerpt from ''The Sorrowful Fate of Bartholomew Jones' 1911)

In this passage:

  • The first stanza has eleven syllables in the first two lines, and twelve in the third.
  • The second stanza has ten + ten + twelve syllables.
  • The third stanza returns to eleven syllables per line.

The poet has allowed himself flexibility in the number of syllables while maintaining rhythm and pace (try reading the stanzas out loud to see!)

After Bartholomew Jones dies, he goes to heaven but finds it all very dull - nothing but gold pavements, harps and angels, and constant sunshine. He complains that he would have been better off sinning when he was alive:

'If this be the heaven I labored to win,

I'd better have taken full measure of sin,'

He moaned to the angel who first let him in.

Said the angel, while looking to bolt and to bar,

'I fear, sir, you're somewhat mistaken so far,

But this is the hell where the hypocrites are.'

Monorhyme, Bartholomew Jones in heaven, StudysmarterWhere the hypocrites are,JW - public domain via Canva.com

Have you ever written a monorhyme? As we have seen, the number of syllables per line can vary, however, there should be identical rhymes at the end of each line of a stanza (or the whole poem if you're feeling ambitious!)

Monorhymes have been used for serious as well as satirical poetry. Here is an extract from a monorhyme poem about nature by Mary Electa Adams, where she describes a setting sun:

The broad, red west like a furnace glows,

And the wind like a Titan's bellows blows,

'Till one could not tell if it burned or froze.

(Mary Electa Adams, 'By the Marshes of Tantramar', 1898)

Notice how the number of syllables changes from nine to ten yet maintains rhythm.

The poet switches the syllables to ten and eleven syllables a line a few stanzas later:

The years and the sea and the star are the same,

And the broad, red west hath been often aflame,

But it standeth still in the mighty frame. "

The poem's closing stanza contains three lines of eleven syllables each:

What wouldst thou, through earth and the heavens to plod?

The universe changeless would be but a clod,

And change is the name of the working of God.

The monorhyme is perhaps among the more flexible types of poetry and is useful for humorous and philosophical poetry as well as riddles. It might not appeal to everyone (and has been called mere doggerel!) But it can add pace and rhythm to a poem, thereby enriching the reader's experience and understanding.

Doggerel is poetry that is written for comic effect, often in a loose or irregular style. Also used to describe 'badly written poetry'.

Monorhyme - key takeaways

  • A monorhyme poem is when a poem uses a repeated rhyme in each verse or even the same rhyme for the whole poem.
  • The rhyme scheme in a monorhyme poem is AAA (identical rhyme for each line).

  • Monorhyme poems tend to use identical rhymes.

  • Identical rhymes share the same sound and end in the same consonants.

  • The monorhyme is perhaps among the more flexible types of poetry and is useful for humourous and philosophical poetry as well as riddles.

Monorhyme

A monorhyme poem is when a poem uses the same end rhyme in each verse or even the same end rhyme for the whole poem.

William Blake's Silent, Silent Night.

The rhyme scheme for monorhyme is AAAA.

Final Monorhyme Quiz

Question

What is a monorhyme poem?


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Answer

A monorhyme poem is when a poem uses the same end rhyme in each verse or even the same end rhyme for the whole poem. 

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Question

What is an example of a monorhyming poem? 

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Answer

William Blake’s 'Silent, Silent Night' is an example of a monorhyming poem.

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Question

What is the rhyme scheme for monorhyme?

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Answer

The rhyme scheme is AAA.

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Question

What are identical rhymes?

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Answer

Identical rhymes share the same sound and end in the same consonant.

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Question

Complete the following: Rhyme scheme is the … used for structuring a poem. We use letters of the alphabet to indicate the pattern, for example … for alternating rhymes, … for matching rhymes and so on.

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Answer

Rhyme scheme is the pattern used for structuring a poem. We use letters of the alphabet to indicate the pattern, for example, ABABAB for alternating rhymes, AAA for matching rhymes and so on.

Show question

Question

At some time in the past, these words may have rhymed perfectly but no longer rhyme in modern pronunciation; these are called … . 

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Answer

At some time in the past, these words may have rhymed perfectly but no longer rhyme in modern pronunciation; these are called historical rhymes. 

Show question

Question

True or false? 'All that glisters is not gold’ is a line from a monorhyme by John Donne.


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Answer

False: 'All that glisters is not gold’ is a line from a speech in The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare.

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Question

True or false? Monorhymes appear in works by Shakespeare, John Donne and William Blake.


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Answer

True.

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Question

Complete the following: Blake did not rely on … spelling or …, so often his words will appear … or strange.


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Answer

Blake did not rely on standard spelling or punctuation, so often his words will appear misspelt or strange.

Show question

Question

Complete the following: John Donne uses monorhyme in his … ‘letter-poems’ (or …. satire) sent to friends and fellow poets.

Show answer

Answer

John Donne uses monorhyme in his satirical ‘letter-poems’ (or epistolary satire) sent to friends and fellow poets.

Show question

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