What Is the Significance of the Rhyme Scheme in the Poem "The Raven"?
Rhyme scheme is the repetition of rhyming words throughout a poem. It is determined by assigning each unique rhyming line a letter. The rhyme scheme of a poem with alternating rhymes is ABABAB. Rhyme scheme is very important in creating a rhythm and tone of poems in the English language and is a commonly uses literary device.
The rhyme scheme in Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven" is significant because the poem has a unique pattern of end rhymes and internal rhymes, creating the atmosphere and the tension in the poem. Most lines in "The Raven" use trochaic octameter, which is eight metrical feet (sixteen syllables) that follow a specific pattern of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.
Here's the first stanza and second stanza of "The Raven" followed by an analysis of the end rhyme and internal rhyme within.
"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore."
End rhyme consists of the rhyming words at the end of each line.
In each stanza in "The Raven," the end rhymes of the first line and third lines alternate, while the second line, fourth line, fifth line and sixth lines are always "B." For example, the rhyme scheme in the first stanza in "The Raven" is ABCBBB, with the B rhyme always being an "or" sound at the end of the line: Lenore, chamber door, nevermore, etc. This specific rhyme scheme used by Edgar Allan Poe where he repeats this "B" rhyme throughout "The Raven" is what gives the poem its eerie tone and atmosphere.
These end rhymes continue throughout the poem, with phrases such as the following:
- "night’s plutonian shore"
- "ominous bird of yore"
- "bosom’s core"
- "stately raven of the saintly days of yore"
And, of course, the title of the poem, and most repeated one, "nevermore."
In each stanza of "The Raven", the first and third lines -- which may seem to have no rhyming partners nearby -- have internal rhymes, meaning the rhyme is located within the line instead of at the end. The rhyme scheme is harder to see at first, but the usage of internal rhyme is what Edgar Allan Poe uses so well in "The Raven."
For example, in line 1 "dreary" rhymes with "weary," and in line 3 "napping" rhymes with "tapping" and "rapping" as well. The internal rhymes jump out at the listener/reader and create tension in each stanza.
Alliteration is another kind of repetition that’s used in "The Raven." It occurs when Edgar Allan Poe repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “weak and weary” in the first line of the poem. This consonance is another literary device Poe uses to create rhythm and feeling.
The specific rhyme scheme used by Edgar Allen Poe in "The Raven" is intentional, using both end rhyme and internal rhyme to create an eerie mood.
Melissa McDonald has been writing about education since 2006. Her work has appeared in “AdjunctNation,” “JCW” and “Honor Cord” e-zine. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and currently works in higher education as a writing consultant. Beyond her work as educator and writer, McDonald volunteers as a judge in both local and national writing competitions for high school and college students.