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The Use of Rhyme in the Millay Poem, "Recuerdo"


Words are only one vehicle to create meaning in poetry. Everything from the rhyme pattern to the meter to the figurative language used in the poem can create additional layers of meaning to enhance a theme or deepen the emotional response. Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Recuerdo" uses an unusual rhyme pattern to reflect dizzying glee and passion experienced by two young lovers spending the night talking and roaming the city together.

Rhyming Couplets

The poem is composed entirely of rhyming couplets, or pairs of lines that end in a rhyme. The overarching rhyme scheme is unique. There are three stanzas of six lines each, and the rhyme scheme is AA BB CC, AA DD EE, AA FF GG. The first two lines of each stanza rhyme, and then the rest of the poem features independent rhyming pairs. The rhyme pattern puts the emphasis on the first two lines in each stanza, which happen to be the same two lines.

Repeating Lines

The two repeating lines in the poem are "We were very tired, we were very merry -- / We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry." The lines have a strong ending rhyme. By repeating these lines and starting each stanza with them, the poem puts the focus on the ideas expressed in them. While the rest of the poem may seem like a blur of activity and excitement, these two lines are steadfast. The repetition also takes on the tone of someone trying to remember something important, an idea reflected in the title, which means "I remember" in Spanish. The lines are strengthened even more with their clear ending rhyme.

Internal Rhyme

In addition to the rhyme in each pair of lines, the poem also uses internal rhyme. In the first stanza, the lines that follow the opening are "It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable -- / But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table ... " There are two internal rhymes in the opening of the poem: "Bright" rhymes with "night" and "fire" rhymes with "tired." The internal rhyme creates a lyrical quality to the lines, which enhances the dreamy, magical quality of the poem. The internal rhyme also adds emphasis to those repeating lines, again underscoring their significance.

Imperfect Rhyme and Assonance

The last stanza of the poem includes a number of imperfect rhymes, including "mother," "morrow" and "morning." Like the internal rhyme in the first stanza, these imperfect rhymes help to draw the lines together. The second stanza also uses assonance, which is the repetition of similar vowel sounds. In this stanza, assonance is used for the long "a" in "ate" and "pear" and the soft "a" in "apple" and "an" or "and." The assonance in this stanza also helps to tie the ideas together. These softer rhyming techniques create a looser bond between the lines since they express a more dreamy state of mind as the couple is drunk on their love and the time spent together.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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