Rhyme schemes

One of the most basic functions of rhyme is to create connections between lines of poetry and to form units larger than individual lines. Such units are characterized by certain patterns of rhymes which are termed rhyme-schemes. Rhyme schemes are usually represented by lower-case letters (AABB, ABAB, ABCB), each successive letter of the alphabet standing for a new rhyme as in the examples below:

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies;
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring;
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells chearful sound

a
a
b
b
c
c
d
d

The smallest unit of rhyming lines is the couplet which are two lines (usually of similar length) joined together by rhyme (see the first example above).

A unit of four lines of poetry joined by rhyme is called a quatrain. Quatrains are perhaps the most frequently occurring rhyming units in English poetry. The most common rhymes schemes in quatrains are the alternating patterns like ABAB or AABB

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

a
b
a
b

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