A couplet, in poetry, is two lines (usually of verse) that are linked together, either by forming a complete poem or a stanza, or by end rhyme. Rhyming couplets are the simplest rhyme scheme used in English-language poetry.

Couplets in English poetryEdit

As traditionally used by English poets, couplets usually consist of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter. Rhyming couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic couplets. Couplets can also appear in more complex rhyme schemes. For example, Shakespearean sonnets end with heroic couplets. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales are written in heroic couplets. John Dryden in the 17th century and Alexander Pope in the 18th century were both well known for their writing in heroic couplets. Because the rhyme comes so quickly in rhyming couplets, it tends to call attention to itself. Good rhyming couplets tend to "snap" as both the rhyme and the idea come to a quick close in two lines. Here are some examples of rhyming couplets where the sense as well as the sound "rhymes":

True wit is nature to advantage dress'd;
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.
— Alexander Pope
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
is idle, biologically speaking.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (at the end of a sonnet)

On the other hand, because rhyming couplets have such a predictable rhyme scheme, they can feel artificial and plodding. Here is a Pope parody of the predictable rhymes of his era:

Where-e'er you find "the cooling western breeze,"
In the next line, it "whispers through the trees;"
If crystal streams "with pleasing murmurs creep,"
The reader's threatened (not in vain) with "sleep."

Couplets in Chinese poetryEdit

Chinese couplets or "contrapuntal couplets" may be seen on doorways in Chinese communities worldwide. Couplets displayed as part of the Chinese New Year festival, on the first morning of the New Year, are called chunlian. These are usually purchased at a market a few days before and glued to the doorframe. The text of the couplets is often traditional and contains hopes for prosperity. Other chunlian reflect more recent concerns. For example, the CCTV New Year's Gala usually promotes couplets reflecting current political themes in mainland China. Some Chinese couplets may consists as simple as two lines of four characters each. Couplets are read from top to bottom where the first line starts from the right.

Couplets in Indian poetryEdit

Rhyming couplets are also used in other poetic traditions, including non-Western ones. Kurals, which are a subclass of the Venpa class of Tamil poetry, are couplets. Tirukkural is a popular book written in Kural Venpa form. In Hindi, there are other kinds of couplets as well, including: Doha, Sortha, Chaupai, Chhand etc. Hindi poets such as Rahim, Kabir, Tulsidas, Bihari, Surdas and many more were pioneers in this form.

Couplets in hip-hop musicEdit

Couplets are the most common type of rhyme scheme in old school rap[1] and are still commonly used in today's hip-hop music and rapping,[2] though more complex rhyme schemes have progressively become more frequently employed.[3][4]

See alsoEdit


  1. Bradley, Adam, 2009, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop, Basic Civitas Books, p. 50.
  2. Edwards, Paul, 2009, How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, Chicago Review Press, p. 99.
  3. Edwards, Paul, 2009, How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC, Chicago Review Press, p. 97.
  4. Bradley, Adam, 2009, Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop, Basic Civitas Books, p. 73.

External linksEdit

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