Definition of Internal Rhyme
In poetry, internal is the use of rhyming words in the same line, or rhyming words in the middle of lines. Internal rhyme is the opposite of end rhyme, which involves rhyming words at the end of successive lines.
Types of Internal Rhyme
There are three variations on the definition of internal rhyme:
- Two or more rhyming words in the same line. For example: It would be good to have a hood in this weather.
- Rhyming words that appear in the middle of successive lines. For example: I felt sad thinking of the day / That my dad left for the war.
- A word at the end of a line that rhymes with a word in the middle of a successive line. For example: In the end, what does it matter? / It’s all chatter, the things they say.
Common Examples of Internal Rhyme
Internal rhyme examples abound in popular music. Here are some instances of internal rhyme in The Beatles’s famous song “Hey Jude”:
Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better
Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better
Internal rhyme was especially popular in music of the Swing Era, such as in this 1944 song “Hollywood Canteen” by Cole Porter:
Just turn me loose let me straddle my old saddle,
Underneath the western skies,
On my cayuse let me wander over yonder,
‘Til I see the mountains rise.
Internal rhyme is also popular in hip hop and rap music. Here are examples from a few different songs:
My unusual will confuse you a while
If I were water, I’d flow in the Nile
So many rhymes you won’t have time to go for yours
Just because of applause I have to pause
Right after tonight is when I prepare
To catch another sucker-duck MC out there
My strategy has to be , catastrophe
And after this you’ll call me your majesty
“My Melody,” by Eric B. and Rakim
I’m six-foot-one and I’m tons of fun and I dress to a T
You see, I got more clothes than Muhammad Ali and I dress so viciously
I got body guards, I got two big cars, I definitely ain’t the whack
I got a Lincoln Continental and a sun-roofed Cadillac
So after school, I take a dip in the pool, which is really on the wall
I got a color TV, so I can see the Knicks play basketball
“Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang
Significance of Internal Rhyme in Literature
Internal rhyme is not as popular as end rhyme, which creates a stronger sense of the full of the line. That is, end rhyme signals to the ear or the reader that the line has come to an end and has sonic equivalence at the end of the following line. Internal rhyme, however, can be a good way to connect successive lines aurally without making as strong of an impact. Poets might not always want there to be as much significance placed on the final word of a line—which happens in end rhyme—while still wanting to create echoes of the different sounds from line to line. In cases such as these, internal rhyme makes those connections while usually being a bit subtler than end rhyme.
Examples of Internal Rhyme in Literature
SECOND WITCH: For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL WITCHES: Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
(Macbeth by William Shakespeare)
William Shakespeare uses internal rhyme to great effect in the tragedy of Macbeth. The play opens with a spooky scene of three witches brewing up some magic potion with thunder and lightning going all around them. The witches keep repeating the same two lines of a chant: “Double, double, toil and trouble, / fire burn and cauldron bubble.” These lines contain end rhyme in that “trouble” and “bubble” are rhyming words. However, Shakespeare also repeats the word “double,” which is not at the end of any line, yet rhymes with both “trouble” and “bubble.” In Shakespeare’s usage, this internal rhyme makes the words feel more like a chant.
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow follow’d free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
(“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
There are a few examples of internal rhyme in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In this short excerpt, we can see the internal rhyme in the first line between “blew” and “flew.” We can also see internal rhyme in the third line with the connection of “first” with “burst.” Coleridge also uses the more common device of end rhyme by rhyming the words “free” and “sea.”
Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.
(“To Be a Pilgrim” by Percy Dearmer)
Percy Dearmer rewrote John Bunyan’s poem “To Be a Pilgrim” using many internal rhyme examples. In lines one and two, we can see the rhyming words “round” and “confound,” both of which are in the middle of there lines. In the second set of lines, lines 3 and 4, there is an internal rhyme between “might,” “fight,” and “right.” This is a good way of connecting these disparate ideas of power and capabilities.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
(“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe)
Edgar Allen Poe particularly loved using internal rhyme in his poetry, and we can see many examples of internal rhyme in arguably his most famous poem, “The Raven.” The above two stanzas comprise the the beginning of the poem. In the first we can see internal rhymes between the words “dreary” and “weary,” and then between “napping,” “tapping, and “rapping.” In the second stanza there are internal rhyme examples in the words “remember,” “December,” and “ember,” then also between “morrow,” “borrow,” and “sorrow.”