Please help identify assonance and consonance in the poem "When to Her Lute Corrina Sings" by Thomas Campion.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds within a line or multiple lines of poetry. In Thomas Campion's poem "When to Her Lute Corinna Sings," there are many examples of assonance. The interesting thing to remember about assonance is that similar vowel sounds can be made by different vowels or vowel combinations. For example, in the first stanza, I have bolded the short "i" sound: 

When to her lute Corinna sings,
Her voice revives the leaden strings,
And doth in highest notes appear
As any challenged echo clear;
But when she doth of mourning speak,
Ev’n with her sighs the strings do break.
 
Note that the first "e" in challenged [chal-inj] sounds the same as the "i" in strings. Th same short "i" sound is found in the second stanza in live, spring, and strings.
 
The long "i" sound is also an example of assonance in this poem, as found in the following words: 
  • revives, highest, and sighs in stanza one
  • die in stanza two
 
Notice that while several words contain the vowel "ea," there is a distinct difference between how that combination is pronounced in clear and break. Remember the most important thing is the sound of the vowels, not the appearance.
 
Keep looking and I think you will find also some examples of alliteration with a short "u" sound, among other things. 

Consonance, like alliteration, is the repetition of consonant sounds; however, consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds which are not at the beginning of words. Campion's poem is full of consonance. 

First of all, the poem is written in pairs of rhyming lines, so every pair ends in consonance. In addition, note the consonance for the following sounds:

  • the -ngs sound in sings and strings (3X)
  • the similar -ng sound in sing, spring, and mourning
  • the -r in appear and clear, her, pleasure, sorrow
  • the -k in speak (2X) and break (2X)
  • the -th in doth (5x), with
In addition to these examples of ending consonance, you can hear the -n sound several times in the poem [I added the bold print]:
 
When to her lute Corinna sings,
Her voice revives the leaden strings,
And doth in highest notes appear
As any challenged echo clear;
But when she doth of mourning speak,
Ev’n with her sighs the strings do break.
 
And as her lute doth live or die,
Let by her passion, so must I:
For when of pleasure she doth sing,
My thoughts enjoy a sudden spring,
But if she doth of sorrow speak,
Ev’n from my heart the strings do break.
 
Keep looking and I'm confident you will see several more examples of consonance, such as the -s sound. 
Sources:

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