Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

Chaucer depicts this character as a thin and impoverished, hard working man who is dedicated to his studies. In the prologue the host sees the Clerk hiding in a corner reading he then describes him to be thin and impoverished. Chaucer likes this character because even though he is poor thin and impoverished he is still dedicated to his studies. When the clerk does have money it is mostly of what he borrows from friends and sends prayers for them in return and then spends the money on his books.Trends in poetry have come and gone over the centuries — different meters and rhythms, line lengths and thematic focuses are in vogue one decade and out of fashion the next. These movements also include changes in popular rhyme schemes: Poems from different literary periods and geographic regions can rhyme differently or not at all. When reading poetry critically, take rhymes — or the lack thereof — into account, since they compose a significant part of the poem’s meaning as well as clues to its historical context.

Linking Ideas
Rhyme ties the rhyming words together in your mind, suggesting a relationship between the meanings of the words as well as their sounds. Sometimes poets use this affinity to reinforce similarities between related concepts; at other times, the rhyme points up an antonym. For instance, Lord George Gordon Byron writes, “She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies, / And all that’s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes.” The rhyme of “skies” and “eyes” asks you to think about the relationship between eyes and starry skies — both sparkle and are objects of wonder and beauty, for example. The rhyme of “night” and “bright” links these usually unrelated concepts to add complexity to the poem’s image of beauty.
Making It Memorable
Rhyme creates a sound pattern that allows you to predict what will come next. When you can remember one line of a poem, you’re more likely to remember a second line if it rhymes. This pattern creation also allows the poet to disrupt the pattern, which can give you a jarred or disoriented sensation or introduce humor. Doing so effectively allows the poet to use two words at once — the one that the reader anticipates and the one that’s actually in the text. For instance, the children’s rhyme “Miss Suzy Had a Steamboat” capitalizes on anticipated, but absent, rhymes.
Tying Into Tradition
The rhyme scheme that a poet chooses can tell readers about the poem’s genre, since poetic form ideally follows rhetorical function, as well as its context. When a poem has 14 lines that rhyme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, for instance, its form is called a Shakespearean or English sonnet. The rhyme tells readers that the poem is very likely from the Elizabethan era, or that the poet wants to align with that era’s literary tradition. You can expect the poem in that form to reflect on a problem, then offer a solution or a change in perspective. If it doesn’t do so, then it’s using the sonnet rhyme scheme while departing from traditional sonnet content — and speculating on the rhetorical effects of that departure can make an interesting analysis.
Showcasing Wit
Writing in rhyme adds a further degree of difficulty to the poet’s task — not only does he need to find the precise words to express a thought or image, but he also needs to figure out how to put them into a specific formal framework. Poets sometimes use rhyme to add special flair to their poems, as Lord Byron does with his triple rhymes in “Don Juan” — such as “comparison” and “garrison.” Similarly, some of the most respected hip-hop artists are those who can create poetic “flow” with creative rhymes that express meaningful content.

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References

Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction; Derek Attridge
Poetry Foundation: She Walks in Beauty
Project Gutenberg: Don Juan
How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC; Paul Edwards
Folger Shakespeare Library: Sonnet Structure
About the Author

Elissa Hansen has more than nine years of editorial experience, and she specializes in academic editing across disciplines. She teaches university English and professional writing courses, holding a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in technical communication from Cal Poly, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota.
Photo Credits

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

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