Follow TV Tropes


Painful Rhyme / Poetry

Go To

  • One thing that might lead to this a lot is cultural differences. Something that might rhyme with British pronunciation might not in, say, American English, which will make the rhymes sound forced or painful.
    In a time of secret wooing
    Today prepares tomorrow's ruin
    Left knows not what right is doing
    My heart is torn asunder
    • Changes in pronunciation over time also result in this. The final couplet of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, for example, rhymes "proved" with "loved," which rhymed in his day ("prə'-ved" and "lə'-ved" respectively) but not in the present.
  • Most all of Ogden Nash's poetry uses these, but they usually add a sense of playfulness to the poems. See "The Tale of Custard the Dragon":
    Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
    Around the dragon that ate the pirate.
    • Nash did object, however, to the kind requiring the poetic pronunciation of "wind" as "wined."
  • In his satirical epic poem Don Juan, Lord Byron often used rhymes for comedic effect, sometimes with Lampshade Hanging. One of the most flagrant (other than rhyming "Ju-an" with "new one"), was this one:
    But, oh, ye lords of ladies intellectual,
    Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?
    • At the start of the poem, he also took a swipe at his personal enemy, Robert Southey, who was the current Poet Laureate, by rhyming "Laureate" with "Iscariot". That one was so bad, he even expressed doubts about it in a footnote.
  • The book The Legend of Rah and the Muggles features a poem that not only goes on for five pages and has nothing to do with the plot, but features gems such as:
    Granny had room.
    In her heart, mind, and house
    For a tattered and torn rag doll named Clouse
    Old picnic baskets and yes—even a mouse.
    • (If you're wondering how this scans, you're not the only one.)
  • William Topaz McGonagall, self-acclaimed poet and tragedian, and Trope Namer for Giftedly Bad, wrote entire volumes of poetry that just about rhymes but doesn't scan, and has all the emotional resonance of a steamroller. Most famous is his "The Tay Bridge Disaster", which ends:
    Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv'ry Tay
    I now must conclude my lay
    By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay
    That your central girders would not have given way
    At least many sensible men do say
    Had they been supported on each side with buttresses
    At least many sensible men confesses
    For the stronger we our houses build
    The less chance we have of being killed.
    • Equally hilarious is his Address to the Reverend George Gilfillan, which such immortal lines as:
    All hail to the Rev George Gilfillan of Dundee,
    He is the greatest preacher I did ever hear or see.
    He has written the life of Sir Walter Scott,
    And while he lives he will never be forgot,
    Nor when he is dead,
    Because by his admirers it will be often read
    Rev George Gilfillan of Dundee, I must conclude my muse,
    And to write in praise of thee my pen does not refuse...
  • Robert Browning's excellent poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", which practically begs to be read aloud for fun energy and its many excellent rhymes, uses several such rhyme-pairs, as if to torment the reader.
    So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
    Of scores out with all men — especially pipers!
    And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,
    If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise!
    • Aleister Crowley's Ascension Day and Pentecost is an Affectionate Parody of Browning (as well as a colossal Take That! to Christianity) but it is also a colossal exercise in excruciating rhymes. The author claimed that he made a list of every word in the English language that was said to be "unrhymable" and found a rhyme (of sorts) for every single one of them. Some choice examples:
    We ll have the ham to logic s sandwich
    Of indignation: last bread bland, which
    After our scorn of God s lust, terror, hate,
    Prometheus-fired, we ll butter, perorate
    With oiled indifference, laughter s silver:
    Omne hoc verbum valet nil, vir !
    (I promise Mr. Chesterton
    Before the Muse and I have done
    A grand ap-pre-ci-a-ti-on
    Of Brixton on Ascension Day.)
    • In Chesterton's Return of Don Quixote, those last two rhymes were why Browning was included in John Braintree's list of Victorian Giants who ought to have met up with Jack the Giant-Killer.
  • Anne Bradstreet, a 17th century American colonial poet, wrote a sonnet that rhymed "forever" with "persevere", which, according to a footnote, was pronounced with a short E on the final syllable at the time. Forced rhyme for some people.
  • William Shakespeare is now guilty of this at times: namely, all the uses of words like "banishèd" (rhyming with "dead") at the end of rhymed lines in Romeo and Juliet. Back then, if something ended in 'ed' it was always pronounced with the "èd"; if Shakespeare wanted to say it as we do, he would have spelt it "banish'd".
  • "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing over 7,000 Pounds" by James McIntyre:
    Wert thou suspended from balloon,
    You'd caste a shade, even at noon;
    Folks would think it was the moon
    About to fall and crush them soon.
  • Advertisement:
  • E. E. Cummings had his share of clunkers and painful rhymes, but at his best, he uses this trope for satire.
    what does little Ernest croon
    in his death at afternoon?
    (kow dow r 2 bull retoinis
    wuz de woids uf lil Oinis
  • Emily Dickinson. Read a few of the most famous ones, and you'll notice an annoying tendency for the words to look like they rhyme without actually rhyming at all. As well as rhyming words with themselves.
    • This is called slant rhyme, and it's legit. Of course, it's also entirely possible that she was just using it as an excuse not to think of better rhymes. That said, "chill" and "tulle" still aren't even close.
  • Dylan Thomas lampshaded his own use of half rhyme in one of his poems:
    Do not forget that "limpet" rhymes
    With "strumpet" in these troubled times,
  • Shel Silverstein's poem Pinocchio does this intentionally with nearly every rhyme in it, by constantly appending "-io" to the ends of words. Such as:
    Pinocchio, Pinocchio,
    That little wooden bloke-io,
    His nose, it grew an inch or two,
    With every lie he spoke-io.
    • Possibly inspired by the poem "Antonio" by Laura E. Richards, which includes such (again, intentional) gems as the following:
    Antonio, Antonio,
    Said, "If you will be my ownio,
    I'll love you true,
    And I'll buy for you
    An icery creamery conio!"
    Oh, once there lived in Kankakee
    A handy dandy Yankakee,
    A lone and lean and lankakee
    Cantankakerous Yankakee...
  • A note: Slant rhymes are almost always, if a poet is using them right, meant to be jolting. Messing with people's expectations is one of the things that can distinguish poetry from nursery rhymes and ad jingles.
  • These cringe-inducing lines nominally written about Sir John Hill the apothecary:
    For physic and farces
    His equal there scarce is;
    His farces are physic,
    His physic a farce is.
  • The Passionate Shepherd To His Love by Christopher Marlowe not only tries to rhyme "love" with "prove" and "move", but also "roses" with "posies" and "falls" with "madrigals". If that last one doesn't seem like such a big deal, in a follow-up poetic parody by a different poet "madrigals" is made to rhyme with "canals", which further compounds things.
    • Considering that was over 400 years ago (before the Great Vowel Shift), are we sure those weren't perfect rhymes back then? (The "love"/"prove"/"move" thing wasn't unique to Marlowe: William Shakespeare did it too.) When Pope (much later) rhymed "tea" with "say", it wasn't a mistake; it really did rhyme.
  • At one point in the very odd comedic poem Greybeards At Play, G. K. Chesterton randomly rhymes "Hanno" with "piano." The next stanza is also pretty painful (probably intentionally), despite being an apology for doing it:
    Forgive the entrance of the not
    Too cogent Carthaginian.
    It may have been to make a rhyme;
    I lean to that opinion.
  • Stevie Smith's poem The Jungle Husband uses painful rhymes deliberately for a comic effect.
  • At least one translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, among other crimes, rhymes "unstable" with "unnavigable", "most" with "lost", "bent" with "punishment", "binds" with "winds" (as in, the thing that blows, not the kind of "winds" that would actually rhyme), "alone" with "down", "floods" with "Gods", "food" with both "flood" and, later, "mud".
    • However, as with Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd To His Love, these probably reflect the pronunciation of the time the poem was written. In particular, the pronunciation of "wind" with a short vowel is quite recent; it historically had a long one.
  • Famously in William Blake's "The Tyger":
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
    • There is quite a lot of debate about why this rhyme occurs. It is possible that due to Blake's era and accent he simply pronounced 'symmetry' as 'sim-et-try', which would make the rhyme work. Alternatively he was mimicking the style of poets from before the Great Vowel Shift when the rhyme would have worked even though it didn't rhyme in his day. Finally it does seem intentional that the symmetry of the rhyme scheme is broken by the word symmetry and that might be the whole point.
  • Comedian and musician Richard Stilgoe's 45-minute poem Who Pays the Piper?, which humorously outlines the history of music from Pan to the present day, contains the following:
    I know that's by Delibes, and not by Lully,
    But Lully didn't write a tune that silly. ("silly" is pronounced "sully")
    • Some of the painful rhymes pair an English word with a foreign name with added comic effect, such as:
    Before he knew, a million years had gone
    And Pan was now Olivier Messiaen.
    • And:
    From princip’lly the Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen
    And since the moods of Princes are uncertain
    • And:
    That Duke of Mantua’s the self-same fella
    Whom Verdi made perform ‘Questa o Quella'.
    • And:
    Haydn was seventy-seven, Heinrich Schutz
    At eighty-seven years hung up his boots.
    • The poem contains several songs set to famous tunes, with humorous lyrics added. The song outlining Chopin's life, set to the Minute Waltz, pairs "Sand" with "England".
  • The Nursery Rhyme "Little Miss Muffet" has a rhyme painful in two ways, depending on one's precise dialect of English:
    Along came a spider
    and sat down beside her
    • Not only do we have the word "her," but also the "i" in "spider" is pronounced as in "write" while the "i" in beside is pronounced as in "ride". In some dialects, those are two different sounds.
  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas gives us this example:
    On, Dasher! On, Dancer! On, Prancer and Vixen!
    On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
    • Note that it's just as forced in the poem's original spelling from 1823, in which the last listed name is the Dutch Blixem.
  • In the Bleak Midwinter has a few of these (rhyming 'snow' with 'snow', multiple times), but particularly in the final verse. Apparently there was no Wise Man-related word to rhyme with 'heart' so it became a nonsense line.
    If I were a wise man, I would do my part,
    What can I give him? Give my heart.

Example of: