5 Examples Of Half Rhyme In Literature

The half rhyme is also known as slant rhyme, imperfect rhyme or near rhyme. In half rhyme, the ending consonants of the words match but the initial vowels do not.

It often results in a less harmonious sound. In contrast with full rhymes, wherein the vowel and consonant sounds are identical in both rhyming words, half rhymes are less evident and they give reading a level of sparkle and a unique type of text delicate sound.

The monosyllabic end-rhyme is quite common in modern English poetry but it can also be found in earlier works as well as its counterparts across different forms of literature.

Definition of Half Rhyme

Half rhyme takes place when the ending consonant sounds of two words are the same, however the vowel sounds that precede them are different. For example, in the words like “pack”, and “luck”, the last syllable “ck” matches, however, the “a” sound in “pack” contrasts with the “u” sound in “luck.”

This type of rhyme scheme is more irregular and has an unpredictable sound pattern than regular rhyme. The poet thus, is freed up from the need to be limited to one particular sound and has more liberty to use the productively adapt his compositions.

Examples of Half Rhyme in Literature

Many poets use the half rhyme to increase the musical quality of their poems. Half rhyme is also used to maintain a conversational tone in a poem.


“Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

An ambiguous feeling is camouflaged by the writer using the half rhyme of “me” and “Immortality.” The ending points of both these words are not classic rhymes, but appear to end with a similar sound that creates a light sibilance.

The word “me” is a feminine half rhyme in the first word that echoes faintly in the last syllable of “Immortality.” Such technique is a sweet hint of tranquility in the poem.

The poet achieves the same musical feeling to the poem by using consonance because the rhymes are too easy to enter.


“The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

By using the words “falconer” and “world”, the poet employs the technique of the half rhyme. Both these words end in same sounds that make the connection less strict to the reader.

The word “falconer” sounds like “the world” in the soft ‘er’ / ‘ld’ rhyme, giving a clever slant or half rhyme.

The minor mismatch of the half rhyme serves to embody the theme of disintegration and chaos that the author brings up in the poem through the symbol of the falcon not being able to hear the falconer.

It becomes evident that the falcon cannot maintain its control, and so it plunges into darkness.

In addition, by means of half rhymes, one can feel the uneasy tone of the poem, dividing the rules of order and its dark and premonitory view.


“Strange Meeting” by Wilfred Owen

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

Owen makes the use of half rhyme, a scheme that portrays the distortion and the unusual experience that the soldiers face during their meeting in the underworld.

It is a metaphor where the battleground is at a loss, throughout “Strange Meeting”. In the stanza, one can notice a half rhyme between “groined” and “groaned. “

The repetition of final consonants across the words is an echo that contributes to the poem’s haunting background.

This variance created by the incompatibility between the expected and the actual horrors of war provides a reflection of the poem’s theme.

Furthermore, “escaped” and “scooped” are examples of the rhyming words. These words do not rhyme exactly but are similar in sound. They make the poem sound musical.

This creates a sense of tension and unease that is the actual theme of the poem.


“Digging” by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

In this poem, the writer is talking about his father and grandfather as well as their actions.

Through the use of half rhyme Heaney gives “Digging” the effect of doing the mental work of writing, the same piece of work as that of physical farming.

The words like “gun” and “thumb” are also half rhyme. Although these words are not rhymed perfectly, however they are similar in sound.

The writer shows that how the pen and spade are both tools that are used to create something.

Alongside “sound” and “ground” mentioned in the lines below, the “down” added in the next stanzas, which shares the same final consonant sound and differ in their vowels.

The use of half rhyme is an innovative device for the writer to convey both the theme of continuity with a subtle change between generations, physicality and rhythmic flow of digging, by using the visuals in the story.

The author symbolizes digging his memories and heritage root by root.

The employment of half rhyme by Heaney connects the act of writing to the agricultural work of his ancestors and thus, it might be said that his literary efforts are the metaphorical digging into one’s past, the actual process of cultivating personal and cultural identity.


“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

The use of half rhymes contributes more to the poetic register and the thematic nature of the poem.

For instance, ‘Achoo’ and ‘shoe’ have the similar sounds with the final consonants but the initial vowel sounds do not correspond, and only half rhyme is formed.

This association represents that she felt suffocating and tensed by her father’s character and identity. This situation has been described as “like a foot” in a “black shoe”.

Another half rhyme is found in “blue” and “you” words.

These words conclude one of the stanzas and, as such, it underlines the emotional as well as the geographic distance with her father that separates them.

For example, the phrase, “freakish Atlantic” can be said to be symbolic of this geographical distance.

The use of “Ach, du” also follows the same sound pattern; resonating with “you”.

However, it expresses an aspect of her father, which highlights her mixture of emotions.

Here, the author uses suspended rhythm and obstruction of words which enrich inner weight and depict the other side of the girl.

Plath deliberately mixes half rhyme throughout her poem to turn this device into a part of deconstructing the complex feelings, which emerge from her thoughts on Daddy and her identity.

The music harmony establishment is disrupted, which mirrors the poem’s dark theme of life and pours the audience into its emotionally shocking atmosphere.

Function of Half Rhyme

The use of half rhyme in poetry can serve multiple functions:

Flexibility in Expression: It provides additional liberty in the words selection therefore, allows them not to be restricted to the patterns of rhyming, which is otherwise their main obstacle.

Subtle Sound Patterns: It is known that half rhyme assembles a less prominent sound pattern, which may have an influence on such subtle, quiet effect compared to the other fellows.

Enhanced Musicality: Through the use of half rhyme, the poetic work becomes more musical as these create beautifully varied and complex sound textures.

Psychological Impact: Very close, strangely close and sometimes strange indeed are the curved lines of half rhymes which are reflection of emotional content of a lyrics of a poem.

See also: Haiku Examples in Literature

Related Literary Terms

Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds in close margin within a line or verse. Consonance is similar to half rhyme but does not definitely involve the end of words.

Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds within a line or verse. It creates an internal rhyming and increase the musical quality of the poetry. This function of assonance is similar to half rhyme.

Examples Of Half Rhyme In Literature
Examples Of Half Rhyme In Literature

See also: Literary Devices That Start with H

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *