In poetry, internal rhyme, or middle rhyme, is rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse, or between internal phrases across multiple lines. By contrast, rhyme between line endings is known as end rhyme.
Percy Dearmer (1867-1936) revised John Bunyan's (1628-1688) poem "To Be a Pilgrim" in 1906. It became a popular hymn when Canon Charles Winfred Douglas (1867-1944) set it to music in 1917. Here are Dearmer's lyrics, with the internal rhymes in bold. Notice that in these three quatrains the internal rhymes are also echoed in the line rhymes (also in bold).
He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.
Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.
Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.
Internal rhyme schemes were extremely common in popular song of the Swing Era. One familiar example is the bridge from "Don't Fence Me In," written by Cole Porter for the film "Hollywood Canteen" in 1944:
Just turn me loose let me straddle my old saddle,
Underneath the western skies,
On my cayuse let me wander over yonder,
'Til I see the mountains rise.
Internal rhyme is used extensively in rap/hip hop music, where it sometimes overlaps with assonance. The usage of internal rhyme in rap has increased over time, but can be found even in the earliest rap songs, such as the Sugarhill Gang's 1979 single, Rapper's Delight:
I'm six-foot-one and I'm tons of fun and I dress to a T
You see, I got more clothes than Muhammad Ali and I dress so viciously
I got body guards, I got two big cars, I definitely ain't the whack
I got a Lincoln Continental and a sun-roofed Cadillac
So after school, I take a dip in the pool, which is really on the wall
I got a color TV, so I can see the Knicks play basketball
Internal rhyme is used frequently by many different hip hop artists, including Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane, and Rakim, as demonstrated in Eric B. and Rakim's 1987 piece, "My Melody" from their debut album Paid In Full:
My unusual style will confuse you a while
If I were water, I'd flow in the Nile
So many rhymes you won't have time to go for yours
Just because of applause I have to pause
Right after tonight is when I prepare
To catch another sucker-duck MC out there
My strategy has to be tragedy, catastrophe
And after this you'll call me your majesty...
Another prominent hip hop artist who uses complex internal rhymes is AZ, as shown in "The Format":
Young and gifted, my tongue's prolific
In the beach bungalow is how I brung in Christmas
To the streets I'mma flow from the hungriest districts
Swiss kicks crisp when I come to them picnics
Play slow, paper chase stack and lay low
Range rove tinted all black the same old
Psychic mind, righteous rhymes that turned a new leaf from a life of crime
No concerns with new beef, who's as nice as I'm
It's confirmed, from few feet I'm still a sniper blind
Built my fame, spilt my pain
Politicking daily, still trying to milk the game
It's obvious that I'm real, rap skills remain
I took some change and I'm still the same
Hey Jude, don't make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better
Hey Jude, don't be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better
- Strachan, John; Terry, Richard (2000). Poetry, p. 63. Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-1045-6.
- "Internal rhyme". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2014.
- Sugar Hill Gang – Rapper's Delight Lyrics | Rap Genius
- Salaam, Mtume ya (June 22, 1995). "The Aesthetics ". African American Review.
- allmusic ((( Rakim > Biography ))). Allmusic. Accessed May 22, 2008.