As a child I loved rhyme. In the 6th form I thought rhyme was a crime. I was wrong. I was put off it by those people who say poetry isn’t poetry if it doesn’t rhyme.
Rhyme can be a trap. It can sound glib. Classical Greek poets didn’t use it. Early British (Welsh) and Old English poets relied on assonance and alliteration. Rhyme chimes vowels at line endings, and the effect lies in the echo of almost twin sounds. Sometimes, because English spelling is crazy, there’s extra fun to be had in the ill matched appearance of rhyming words like ‘after’ and ‘laughter’, and ‘daughter’ and ‘water’, the rhyme I use at the end of ‘Cold Knap Lake’.
Children love rhyme. It’s great for insults, name calling, ring games, talking to babies, spells, jokes, hymns, incantation, and as an aid to memory. Glib rhymes make us laugh, but even simple rhymes can add poignancy to a convincing elegy like W.H. Auden’s ‘Stop All the Clocks’. Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets to end a scene, or a play: ‘For never was a story of more woe/ Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.’ I love the full rhyming virtuoso performance of a Shakespeare sonnet with its delicious final rhyming couplet.
I also love half rhymes, internal rhymes – rhymes inside instead of at the ends of lines, and rhymes so subtle you can’t see them as you read, and only your ears believe they are rhymes at all. I have put 6 lines between ‘stigmata’ and ‘Yamaha’ in a poem (‘Last Rites’). I enjoy hearing them call to each other. That’s internal rhyme.
‘Cold Knap Lake’ uses half rhyme, with a rhyming couplet at the end. Stanza one pairs ‘crowd’ with ‘dead’, ‘lake’ with ‘silk’, and so on. The poem tells the true story of a little girl who almost drowned in a lake close to where we lived when I was a young child. By the end of the poem the true story has almost become a legend, one I will never forget, about a child who nearly drowned in a lake, about a heroine who saved her, about a poor home and a cruel father. The fully rhyming couplet seems the right way to end a fairy story.