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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An analysis of rhyme in poetry for children Harley, Avis Valerie


This thesis attempts to provide an insight into how rhyming devices and rhyme forms have been used in poetry written specifically for children. It looks at words thathave been selected by children's poets for their acoustical effect as well as their literary meaning and explores how the placement of each rhyming word affects the poem. In order to illustrate the context from which children's poetry has evolved, an overview of what is known in general about the historical roots of rhyme in the English language is reviewed through the works of the following scholars: Saintsbury, Lanz, Reeves, Fraser, Woods, Hollander, Wimsatt, and Pendlebury. Such widely differing poets as Isaac Watts (1674-1748), William Blake (1757-1827), Edward Lear (1812-1888),Lewis Carroll (1831-1898), Christina Rossetti (1830-1898),Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), A.A. Milne (1882-1956), David McCord (1897- ), John Ciardi (1916-1986), Eve Merriam (1916- ), and Valerie Worth (1933- ) have contributed significantly to the development and shaping of children's poetry. This paper examines how rhyme has been used by these twelve poets. 164 poems have been analyzed, totalling 2671 lines. Although basically a descriptive, historical study, some quantitative data are included in the second chapter to illustrate the following: --frequency of rhyme patterns (couplet, triplet, quatrain, etc.) --preferred stanzaic forms --percentage of stressed or unstressed line-endings. The analysis offers statistical proof that wide experimentation with all forms of children's poetry, especially free verse, has occurred in the twentieth century. Use of near-rhyme appears to have increased in the last few decades. Poets' preferences for rhyme patterns have altered over the past three hundred years, but traditional forms such as the couplet and quatrain continue to be popular choices of contemporary poets. The main purpose of this thesis is to illustrate the flexibility of rhyme by emphasizing the variety of devices and forms in which rhyme has been successfully employed in children’s poetry.

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