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  #1  
Unread 03-23-2021, 09:52 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Default Rhyme scheme question

Looking at my son's GCSE English Literature homework with him, I see a rhyme scheme described as ABACA, which I'd have described as AXAXA, because there's no B- or C- rhyme in the poem: the second and fourth lines are unrhymed throughout.

In fact, I'd probably describe it AXAXA, BXBXB ... because with a one-stanza description isn't sufficient to describe how a rhyme scheme progresses across stanzas. Even more so with the ABACA description, since the second stanza could be ABACA or DBDCB or DEDFD and so on.

This way of describing rhyme schemes (i.e., not using X for unrhymed lines) seems to be consistently used across all GCSE learning websites I've checked, so I'm guessing it's the official way to do this at GCSE, but I can't recall ever having seen it anywhere else. So, I'm wondering if anyone else has. All the actual poetry sites I've looked at use X to denote non-rhyming lines. I don't want to tell my son he's being taught wrong if he isn't, but it doesn't seem like a great way to describe a rhyme scheme.

(The poem is Walking Away by Cecil Day-Lewis; GCSEs are exams taken by 16-year-olds in the UK).

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-23-2021 at 10:01 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-23-2021, 10:14 AM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
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I'd never heard of using the denomination "X", but it strikes me as a good idea.

Duncan
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Unread 03-23-2021, 11:03 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I'm a little stunned that using "X" to indicate unrhymed lines is not currently in the Wikipedia articles for Rhyme Scheme and Ballad Stanza.
But the beauty of Wikipedia is that people can edit it. Go to it, Matt!

I found a number of sources online confirming the use of "X" for unrhymed lines, but they are not as authoritative as quoting a recognized, published poetry handbook would be:
https://lyricworkroom.com/songwriter...-rhyme-scheme/
https://poetryarchive.org/glossary/rhyme-scheme/
https://poetscollective.org/poetryforms/

Example:

Quote:
One four-line stanza in English is ballad measure, a common songwriting measure, which has several variations. (Here x stands for no rhyme). One recognizable from hymns is xaxa xbxb and so on. The x lines are usually four beats long, the a and b lines three. Look at Dickinson.
From http://www.expansivepoetryonline.com...prospart4.html

Sadly, I have loaned out all of my recognized, published poetry handbooks to people who have not returned them, and Google Books seems always to hide precisely the page one needs....
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Unread 03-23-2021, 11:23 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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I've seen rhyme schemes depicted in the following ways:

ABACA (Handbook of Poetic Forms, Ron Padgett) His version of the ballad stanza is ABCB.
But he uses small letters: abcb.

BXBYB (Painless Poetry, Mary Elizabeth) Her version of the ballad stanza is XBYB.
But she uses small letters: xbyb.

AXAXA

Last edited by Martin Elster; 03-23-2021 at 11:42 AM.
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Unread 03-23-2021, 07:24 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Maybe the reason for GCSE(whatever that is)'s choice is that AXAXA can be misread. It looks as though lines 2 and 4 rhyme with each other. Of course, the Xs would be Bs if they rhymed, but a reader may not know that. ABACA cannot be misread that way.

It might, by more knowing readers, be misread as suggesting that the B and C lines will be rhymed later in the poem, but it's standard, when only one stanza is patterned, to assume that the pattern starts fresh each time. (If there were only unrhymed line, ABAA say, one might assume it continued BCBB, but with a B and C both to deal with there are two many possible assumptions to make any one assumption viable, it seems to me.)
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Unread 03-24-2021, 05:57 AM
E. Shaun Russell E. Shaun Russell is offline
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I would never in a million years use X to denote a non-paired endword in a rhyme scheme, partly for the reason Max mentions, and partly because it's semiotically counterintuitive. We use A, B, C etc. because of their logical sequencing.
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  #7  
Unread 03-24-2021, 08:01 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Thank everyone. That seems to answer my question: there's no single standard way of denoting a rhyme scheme. And interestingly, while I've never seen it done without an X to denote a non-rhyming line, conversely some people have never seen it with an X.

Personally, I think the X method is better, because it conveys more information, but maybe that's just because it's the one I'm used to. I'd also the say the X method is most widespread -- or at least in terms of online sources (GCSE revision guides excepted!). The only book I have that denotes rhyme schemes is Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms and he also follows the X convention.

Duncan, interesting that you've never come across the X usage. Then again, I guess in general we don't spend much time writing down rhyme schemes, especially for forms with non-rhyming lines.

Julie, yes, I found those sources too. Interesting that you too seemed to think the X was standard (or I think you did).

Martin, thanks. I guess that confirms the multiple different schemes idea. I wonder if Mary Elizabeth would actually use AXAYA? The example you quote presumably uses 'B' because the rhyme appears on the second line (the X replaces the 'A').

Max, yes, maybe they thought it was a simpler method to teach kids.

Shaun. I have to say I don't agree with your claim that this method is "semiotically unintuitive". What's unintuitive about using 'X' as a variable which can take any value -- or as a 'cross' to show the absence of something? Semiotically, that's very standard, surely? The rhymes are named alphabetically in order of appearance, which also seems intuitive and logical to me. Maybe it seems unintuitive to you because it differs from the method you're used to? My initial reaction to first seeing the system you favour was also negative; I thought it was a pretty dumb method. In retrospect, I think that's largely because it was being done differently to how I'd learned to read the code. Albeit, I still think the X approach is better, among other things I think the 'X' makes it clearer to see the the rhyming versus non-rhyming pattern at a glance, though again may be about what I'm used to and may be pure prejudice on my part!

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-24-2021 at 10:33 AM.
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  #8  
Unread 03-24-2021, 09:41 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Maybe the use of "x" as a wildcard in rhyme schemes seems more intuitive to me because I was a classical languages undergraduate, and I got used to seeing "x" marking the anceps in quantitative meters (when either a long or short syllable is acceptable). For example, the scansion model for a Sapphic stanza in Greek or Latin is

– ∪ – x – ∪ ∪ – ∪ – –
– ∪ – x – ∪ ∪ – ∪ – –
– ∪ – x – ∪ ∪ – ∪ – –
– ∪ ∪ – –

Of course, that's a bit different, as the "x" there is only indicating either of two possibilities.
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  #9  
Unread 03-24-2021, 09:53 AM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
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Julie

I thought the final syllable in each line was also an anceps:

∪ x ∪ ∪ ∪ x
∪ x ∪ ∪ ∪ x
∪ x ∪ ∪ ∪ x
∪ ∪ x

Duncan
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  #10  
Unread 03-24-2021, 10:03 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Turco also uses 'x' for describing (syllabic) forms with internal rhymes. To choose a simpler example, the Welsh bardic form Englyn Cyrch has quatrains like this:

x x x x x x a
x x x x x x a
x x x x x x b
x x x x b x a

using an x makes a lot of sense in situations like this, where there are so many non-rhymes. Compare the non-X method:

a b c d e f g
h i j k l m g
o p q r s t u
v w z y u z g

where the rhyme scheme becomes very hard to see (and you risk running out of letters!)

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-24-2021 at 10:17 AM.
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