What Is a Rhyme Scheme? Learn About 10 Different Poetry Rhyme Schemes

Written by MasterClass

May 10, 2019 • 5 min read

There are many different types of rhymes that poets use in their work: internal rhymes, slant rhymes, eye rhymes, identical rhymes, and more. One of the most common ways to write a rhyming poem is to use a rhyme scheme composed of shared vowel sounds or consonants.


What Is a Rhyme Scheme in Poetry?

A rhyme scheme is the pattern of sounds that repeats at the end of a line or stanza. Rhyme schemes can change line by line, stanza by stanza, or can continue throughout a poem. Poems with rhyme schemes are generally written in formal verse, which has a strict meter: a repeating pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Rhyme scheme patterns are formatted in different ways. The patterns are encoded by letters of the alphabet. Lines designated with the same letter rhyme with each other. For example, the rhyme scheme ABAB means the first and third lines of a stanza, or the “A”s, rhyme with each other, and the second line rhymes with the fourth line, or the “B”s rhyme together.

10 Different Rhyme Schemes

Rhyming poems do not have to follow a particular pattern. Any number of new rhymes can be added to a poem to create ongoing patterns.

Some types of poems are defined by designated rhyme schemes and fixed verses. For example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a 14-line poem that includes three, four-line stanzas and a concluding couplet. The sonnet follows the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. This rhyme scheme and verse structure are unique to a Shakespearean sonnet. Other common rhyme schemes include:

Alternate rhyme. In an alternate rhyme, the first and third lines rhyme at the end, and the second and fourth lines rhyme at the end following the pattern ABAB for each stanza. This rhyme scheme is used for poems with four-line stanzas.

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Ballade. A ballade is a lyric poem that follows the rhyme scheme ABABBCBC. Ballades typically have three, eight-line stanzas and conclude with a four-line stanza. The last line of each stanza is the same, which is called a refrain.

  • Andrew Lang, “Ballade of the Optimist”

And, sometimes on a summer's day
To self and every mortal ill
We give the slip, we steal away,
To walk beside some sedgy rill:
The darkening years, the cares that kill,
A little while are well forgot;
When deep in broom upon the hill,
We'd rather be alive than not.

Coupled rhyme. A coupled rhyme is a two-line stanza that rhymes following the rhyme scheme AA BB CC, or a similar dual rhyming scheme. The rhymes themselves are referred to as rhyming couplets. Shakespeare’s sonnets end with rhyming couplets, such as this one:

  • William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18”

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Monorhyme. In a monorhyme, all the lines in a stanza or entire poem end with the same rhyme.

  • William Blake, “Silent, Silent Night”

Silent Silent Night
Quench the holy light
Of thy torches bright

For possess’d of Day
Thousand spirits stray
That sweet joys betray

Why should joys be sweet
Used with deceit
Nor with sorrows meet

But an honest joy
Does itself destroy
For a harlot coy

Enclosed rhyme. The first and fourth lines and the second and third lines rhyme with each other in an enclosed rhyme scheme. The pattern is ABBA, in which A encloses the B.

Sonnet VII
By John Milton

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.

Simple four-line rhyme. These poems follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB throughout the entire poem.

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (excerpt)

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

Triplet. A triplet is a set of three lines in a stanza—called a tercet—that share the same end rhyme.

  • William Shakespeare, “The Phoenix and the Turtle”

Truth may seem, but cannot be
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she
Truth and beauty buried be

Terza rima. An Italian form of poetry that consists of tercets, a terza rima follows a chain rhyme in which the second line of each stanza rhymes with the first and last line of the subsequent stanza. It ends with a couplet rhyming with the middle line of the penultimate stanza. The pattern is ABA BCB CDC DED EE.

  • Percy Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind”

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Limerick. A limerick is a five-line poem with the rhyme scheme AABBA.

  • Mother Goose, “Hickory, Dickory, Dock”

Hickory dickory dock.
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
And down he run.
Hickory dickory dock.

Villanelle. A type of poem with five three-line stanzas that follow a rhyme scheme of ABA. The villanelle concludes with a four-line stanza with the pattern ABAA.

  • Edwin Arlington Robinson, “The House on the Hill” (excerpt)

THEY are all gone away,
The House is shut and still,
There is nothing more to say.

Through broken walls and gray
The winds blow bleak an
d shrill:
They are all gone away.

Nor is there one to-day
To speak them good or ill:
There is nothing more to say.

Why is it then we stray
Around that sunken sill?
They are all gone away,

And our poor fancy-play
For them is wasted skill:
There is nothing more to say.