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The rhyme scheme of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Tell all the Truth but Tell it slant—” seems relatively straightforward at first. Line 2 clearly rhymes with line 4, while line 6 obviously rhymes with line 8. The poem thus seems to have a rhyme scheme of a/b/c/b/d/e/f/e. In other words, the first two even-numbered lines rhyme with one another, as do the final two even-numbered lines. Meanwhile, none of the odd-numbered lines rhyme. This kind of unusual rhyme scheme is typical of Dickinson, whose works are also unconventional in many other ways.
Notice, however, that Dickinson plays more tricks with sounds than might be apparent from the rhyme scheme described above. Thus line 2 ends with the word “lies,” while line 3 ends with the word “Delight.” Even though these two words do not rhyme, they are linked together by their use of assonance – a repetition of the same vowel sounds. In this case, the long “i” sound is heard in both words. Similarly, the word “surprise,” which ends line 4, shares some similarities of sound with “eased” in the next line. Here the similarity lies in the use of alliteration, or a repetition of consonant sounds. In this case, the consonant “s” is emphasized in each of these final words. Meanwhile, the final word “eased” in line 5 links, through assonance, with the final syllable of “gradually” at the end of line 7. In both cases, a long “e” sound is heard. Finally, the last word of the poem – “blind” – not only rhymes with “kind” in line 6 but also echoes the long “i” sounds of “lies,” “Delight,” and “surprise” in lines 2-4. While it would be too much to call some of these echoes “slant rhymes,” it does seem fair to say that the sounds of Dickinson’s poem are more complex and more intriguing than its relatively simple and obvious rhyme scheme would initially suggest.
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