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Why Poetry Should Always Rhyme!

Updated on December 21, 2018
TessSchlesinger profile image

Tessa Schlesinger has been a writer since birth. She was published early, is opinionated, and, in her 7th decade, still continues to write.

Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa.
Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa. | Source

They're Wrong! Poetry Should Always Rhyme

Imagine, if you will, a piece of music without rhythm, melody, and harmony. It wouldn’t be music, would it? In the same way, poetry without rhythm and rhyme is not poetry. The third aspect of poetry – profundity – is voluntary.

Poetry Has Become Unfashionable!

There used to be a time when the general population loved poetry. It is also true that children love poetry. There has to be a reason, right?

Our brains are attuned to rhythm. Not only do we remember things that are rhythmic but we remember things that bring us meaning.

Poetry became unfashionable when the ‘poets’ decided that poetry could be poetry without the rhyme and rhythm. They said that if there was rhyme and rhythm, it would detract from the profundity.

I put it to you that the real meaning was that these ‘poets’ somehow couldn’t manage to put profundity in a piece that demanded both rhyme and rhythm. It’s difficult to do that.

So, essentially, while they gave themselves an excuse for offering up something second rate (and not poetry at all), the rest of us were not so easily taken in. We took our time elsewhere.

Ocean Beach, San Diego, California.
Ocean Beach, San Diego, California. | Source

How Poetry Moves Us

Just as it’s not only the words (the song) set to music that stirs us but the music itself, so it is not only the profundity in poetry that moves us. It is both the rhyme and the rhythm.

What do the following words impart to you?

The earth is mightier than any life form.
Respect for it should be the norm.
Nuclear power on an earthquake zone?
Ridiculous thought with an arrogant tone.

Are your feelings touched? Did you feel less because there was some rhythm and rhyme in words that make us question our relationship to the earth and our use of nuclear power?

I think not.

Coronado Island, California.
Coronado Island, California. | Source

Dylan Thomas – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

This is one of the greatest poems ever written, and it very definitely has rhyme and rhythm. Note that the last word of the middle line rhymes with the last word of the second line in each stanza. Note that the last word of the first and third lines all rhyme with each other.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias

Who amongst us has not been touched by the immoral last lines of his great poem, Ozymandias? We visualize the remnants of those ancient stones lying in the desert, and we think of the many great men who are now nought but ashes and sand. Note that every second line rhymes. Is this poem any less profound because it rhymes?

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Lawrence Binyon - For the Fallen

When we remember those fallen in war, the words of Lawrence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, are part and parcel of commemoration traditions. And, yes, they rhyme.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Rudyard Kipling - If

So much mockery has been given to Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If. Yet, I have lived my life with these words in mind. I read them as a young child, and they stirred me deeply. Growing up in a world of privilege, abused, disabled (on the autistic spectrum), alone, confused, they were a guiding light. Had they been nothing but prose, their impact would have been lost on me. The rhyme and rhythm made me remember them.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Free Verse is Not Poetry

Free verse poetry is, to my mind, an oxymoron. I think that there is an error in classifying free verse as poetry. The only thing that separates it from prose is that the writer ascribes the sentences to different lines.

Your dictionary defines free verse as “Free verse poems do not follow the rules, and have no rhyme or rhythm; but they are still an artistic expression.”

So let me get this straight. Someone who doesn’t have the capacity to put meaningful words into rhyme and rhythm thinks that his or her words are elevated because they are written on different lines?

Consider the following ‘poem’ by William Carlos Williams. It is called ‘This is just to say.”

I have eaten
the plums
that were in

the icebox
and which
you were probably

for breakfast
Forgive me

they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.


Let me rewrite that for you.

"I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me they were delicious - so sweet and so cold."

That’s a letter of apology – not a poem. It has no profundity, no rhyme, not rhythm. There is no greatness about it. There is no doubt that William Carlos Williams was a successful man. His poetry, however, belongs to the modernist movement. To my mind, anything related to the modernist movement, whether architecture, novels, furniture, or jewellery, is barren, lacking in beauty, and pretentious. There is nothing good about modernism. It gave opportunity to people without talent and without the soul to create beauty and express profundity.

Do you prefer

See results

Am I the Only One Who Misses the Beauty of Musical Words with Meaning?

I don’t think so.

Would that the fashion for rhyme and meter returns. I used to love poetry. These days, with the exception of a few, I mostly avoid it.

© 2018 Tessa Schlesinger


Submit a Comment
  • Rupert Taylor profile image

    Rupert Taylor 

    2 years ago from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

    How oft have I thought this word

    That modern poetry is absurd?

    Stuff that gets passed off as “poetry” today is, to me, often incomprehensible gibberish. But then I was raised on Wordsworth, Kipling, Rupert Brooke (after whom I am named) and others.

    And, don’t get me started about “music without rhythm, melody, and harmony.” The gym at which I exercise plays a ghastly selection of what I think is called hip-hop. Yes, there’s rhythm but no melody or harmony. There might be lyrics but I can’t tell because all I hear is screaming.

    Where is the syncopated rhythm and clever rhyming of Irving Berlin?

  • profile image


    2 years ago

    I love poetry, and the words it brings in between every words, the tunes, and the sounds within my ears given, joy it breaths...

  • Ryan Cornelius profile image

    Ryan Jarvis Cornelius 

    2 years ago from Hollywood Florida

    Reading this is very informative. As a life long poem i understand this. I like writing rhyme poetry for this very reason. I have learned them all but feel better doing that kind for this reason. I feel that rhyme keeps the reader interested. I feel that way because it has kept me the same way.

  • Quinnfarkas profile image

    Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas 

    2 years ago from Croatia - USA

    I know exactly what you mean,

    This lack of rhmye is obscene!

    It is disheartening to say the least,

    I refuse to read another single piece!

    The need for rhmye in prose is real,

    I speak for myself, this is how I feel:

    Poems are not simply descriptive sentences,

    To treat them as such is beyond offensive!

  • Pnknucklez profile image

    Paul Neglia 

    2 years ago from Poughkeepsie, NY USA

    I must agree 100 percent. It has to rhyme. There are so many variations of rhyming as well, ABAB, AABB, AAAA,BBBB, sonnets, and so many more. I like to switch up rhyme schemes sometimes to keep my mind fresh. I dont mind free verse but in my mind poetry has to rhyme. Thank you for writing this.

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    2 years ago

    Guranchal Gill, Everybody can certainly eat what they like, wear what the like, and write what they like. However, that doesn’t mean one can cook well, dress beautifully, or that what one writes is worth reading.

  • profile image

    Guranchal Gill 

    2 years ago

    I do not agree with you because a poet never writes poem for people,publicity,etc. but just try to express his feelings by the means of words and rhyme does not affect feelings and connection between a poet and his people.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Thank you for writing this Tess. I am a poet who much prefers to write in rhyme than free verse, though I do write an occasional one just to try my hand at something different as many say they prefer it. I actually have trouble writing a poem that doesn’t rhyme.

    I totally agree that that piece of writing by William Carlos Williams is “not” poetry and I hate when prose is just broken up onto separate lines and called a poem. Whether it rhymes or not it still needs to have form and rhythm.

    I am a freelance writer and my biggest demand is in writing rhyming poetry for children’s books, cards, educational material promoting businesses or products etc. This proves there is still a demand in the world for rhyming poetry. Rudyard Kipling is one of my greatest inspirations as a poet and I feel his poem “If” is a true classic.

    Ever since a child reading Dr. Seuss I have been in love with rhyme and that will never leave me. Yes, poetry was once loved and appreciated as the true art of writing, it needs to be again.

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    2 years ago

    Elijah, I do not mean to offend, but, to my mind, that's not poetry. It's also not grammatical.

    For instance, It's either:

    "Mankind is blinded..."


    "Men are blinded."

    Also, in poetry, every line begins with a capital letter.

    I cannot pick up any rhythm either. Sorry.

  • The0NatureBoy profile image

    Elijah A Alexander Jr 

    2 years ago from Washington DC

    Tessa, for the most parts I agree. The minor disagreement is some non-rhyming poetry still have rhythm. One of the few that I have written does have rhythm but no rhyming is called "Lost From Reality"

    Man are blinded by the glitter of their creations,

    made deaf by the words "you need it,"

    made weak by its constant use,

    and are drunkards by their want for more.

    Man create to appeal to the lust of the eye

    thinking not of the long-range effects,

    caring only that they must have it,

    and to get it will make themselves slaves.

    Man will advertise it to provoke a need,

    give value to it where there is none,

    they make it of such great social importance

    they often feel belittled when they have it not.

    Man are encouraged to use it everyday

    though for centuries they've had it not,

    yet it makes easy something they always do

    while weakening their natural abilities to do it.

    Because it appeals to man's lusting eye,

    has been valued for social dignity,

    makes easy something they have always done

    they will put true needs aside only to get it.

    That is one of the few I have written without rhyme but there is still rhythm. It's the only disagreement I have with your presentation and I appreciate you for sharing it, I was beginning to wonder if I was alone in especially they rhythm aspect.


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