Perfect rhyme

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Perfect rhyme

Perfect rhyme: Rhyme involving words in which the accented vowel sound and all subsequent sounds are identical. Perfect rhyme has been used as a synonym for two different types of rhyme: true (or full) rhyme and rime riche (identical rhyme).

When used as a synonym for true rhyme, which is the more common usage, perfect rhyme refers to rhyme in which the initial sound of the stressed syllable of the rhyming words must be different (for instance, hit / pit or finger / linger). Thus, perfect rhyme does not occur when two or more words are pronounced exactly alike (e.g., air / heir). Other sounds preceding the accented vowel of the rhyming words, however, may or may not be different. Both brim / trim and skim / trim are perfect rhymes, as are hurt, divert, and the verb desert.

When used in the sense of rime riche, however, perfect rhyme refers to rhyme in which all sounds in the stressed syllable as well as all subsequent sounds are identical. Thus, words that sound exactly alike but that have different meanings — whether doe / dough or dough / dough (in the differing senses of dough for baking and money) — exemplify rime riche, as do pairings such as billed / rebuild and compass / encompass.

EXAMPLES: The first stanza of John Crowe Ransom’s poem “Dead Boy” (1927) contains two pairs of true rhymes:

The little cousin is dead, by foul subtraction,

A green bough from Virginia’s aged tree,

And none of the county kin like the transaction

Nor some of the world of outer dark, like me.

By contrast, T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral (1935), a play written in verse, employs rime riche in the following couplet: “And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still / Be forever still.”