Why are identical rhymes inferior in English poetry?

22
2014-07
  • Bradd Szonye

    From “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath:

    Generals gathered in their masses
    Just like witches at black masses

    In English poetry, a perfect rhyme has identical vowels but different onsets, like come and sum. An identical rhyme has identical vowel and onset, like come and become. Pairs of homonyms and homophones are identical rhymes but not perfect rhymes, and most people consider them inferior.

    Holorime, where entire lines rhyme, is likewise stigmatized in English poetry:

    For I scream
    For ice cream

    Most consider this a trifle at best, doggerel at worst.

    This judgment makes some sense for the mere repetition of a word as “rhyme,” which may indicate a lack of creativity. However, that makes less sense to me for examples like the wordplay in holorime and in the Black Sabbath song. Furthermore, some other languages value identical rhyme, like rime riche in French poetry.

    Did identical rhyme fall out of favor at some point, or was it never well-accepted to begin with? Was there any period where it was in fashion in England as in France? Is it considered low poetry for the same reasons that puns are considered low humor in English? Are there forms of English poetry or song where it's more highly regarded – perhaps in limerick or rap, which value wordplay?

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    Related Question

    Why does "orange" rhyme with (almost) nothing in English?
  • MatthewMartin

    Joel Spolsky asked what rhymes with orange. The official answer is, "Nothing," although a creative poet can get close by using half words, just the -nge part or resorting to place names and foreign words.

    Does orange somehow violate the basic phonotactics of English? (And hence we wouldn't expect other English words to rhyme with it?)


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