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January 15, 2004 by AK

Rhyme III

“Simple” poetry is often not so simple; sophisticated patterns can hide beneath apparently poor rhymes. Take the last four lines of Wordsworth’s She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways:

She lived unknown, and few could know

When Lucy ceased to be;

But she is in her grave, and, oh,

The difference to me!

The first line is packed with d’s and n’s: “dunnown and… dnow”; on these two consonants, the first rhyme is built: “dnow–ndoh”. The “oh” in the third line is ostensibly in accordance with the ballad tradition: the “o(h)” filling in for a desirable but missing syllable in the end of a line. (Whether an “o!” was ever part of a male rhyme in folk verse I doubt.)

The second rhyme is not just “be–me”, but rather “to be–to me”. The addition is not trivial because “to” is an auxiliary particle in one combination and a preposition in the other. Not that all this is original; I read it years ago in a Russian book on textual analysis, but don’t remember the authors’ names to give them due credit.


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