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consonance

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consonance

Consonance in the first line of a poem by Dylan Thomas

Definition:

Broadly, the repetition of consonant sounds; more specifically, the repetition of the final consonant sounds of accented syllables or important words.

William Harmon notes that "most so-called eye rhymes (such as 'word' and 'lord,' or 'blood,' 'food,' and 'good') are instances of consonance, as are the hymnals' rhymes between between 'river' and 'ever' or 'heaven' and 'given'" (A Handbook to Literature, 2006).

See also:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "agree" + "sounds"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The repetition of final consonant sounds, as in 'First and last,' 'odds and ends,' 'short and sweet,' 'a stroke of luck,' or Shakespeare's 'struts and frets' is CONSONANCE."
    (Laurence Perrine, Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, Harcourt, 1978)


  • ’T was later when the summer went
    Than when the cricket came,
    And yet we knew that gentle clock
    Meant nought but going home.

    ’T was sooner when the cricket went
    Than when the winter came,
    Yet that pathetic pendulum
    Keeps esoteric time.
    (Emily Dickinson, "’T was later when the summer went")


  • Consonance in Rap Lyrics
    Consonance . . . is quite often employed in rap, whether to underscore rhyme or to offer a kind of rhyme substitute. Lauryn Hill's lines from the Fugees 'Zealots' show consonance at work alongside rhyme:
    Rap rejects my tape deck, ejects projectile
    Whether Jew or Gentile, I rank top percentile,
    Many styles, More powerful than gamma rays
    My grammar pays, like Carlos Santana plays
    Consonance with one sound ('eck') shifts to multisyllable rhymes with another sound ('projectile,' 'Gentile,' 'percentile') and then another ('gamma rays,' 'grammar pays,' 'Santana plays'). The result is as intricate as it is effortless."
    (Adam Bradley, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. BasicCivitas, 2009)


  • Seamus Heaney's Use of Consonance
    "[In Seamus Heaney's poem "Ocean's Love to Ireland"] the plosives i and k also serve to slow our reading, as do the alliteration and consonance of the b's and d's that begin here and continue in the second through fifth lines:
    Ralegh has backed the maid to a tree
    As Ireland is backed to England

    And drives inland
    Till all her strands are breathless.
    We picture a deliberate, proud, unfrenzied man using language and physical strength to overpower the maid."
    (Karen Marguerite Moloney, Seamus Heaney and the Emblems of Hope, University of Missouri Press, 2007)


  • Consonance in Poetry
    Great, or good, or kind, or fair,
    I will ne'er the more despair;
    If she love me, this believe,
    I will die ere she shall grieve;
    If she slight me when I woo,
    I can scorn and let her go;
    For if she be not for me,
    What care I for whom she be?
    (George Wither, "Shall I Wasting in Despair")


    A Quietness distilled
    As Twilight long begun,
    Or Nature spending with herself
    Sequestered Afternoon--
    (Emily Dickinson, "As imperceptibly as Grief")


    "Wilfred Owen's 'Arms and the Boy' (1920) provides an example of consonance in which initial as well as final consonant sounds are repeated (in the words blade and blood, flash and flesh):
    Let the boy try along this bayonet blade
    How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
    Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;
    And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh."
    (Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray, The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, 3rd ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009)
Pronunciation: KON-se-nens
Also Known As: half rhyme, slant rhyme

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