How do these lines from "Sailing to Byzantium" scan in terms of meter and rhyme scheme?Consume my heart away; sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me...

How do these lines from "Sailing to Byzantium" scan in terms of meter and rhyme scheme?

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is; and gather me

Into the artifice


Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rhyme scheme of "Sailing to Byzantium" is consistent throughout and the meter is predominantly iambic pentameter. The fact that there may be deviations from strict iambic pentameter is not unusual. Shakespeare did it frequently in his sonnets. It is the dominant meter that counts. Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" is in iambic pentameter, but consider the line

Fast fading violets covered up in leaves.

The line not only does not scan as iambic pentameter, but it contains eleven syllables. It seems to be intentionally syncopated. 

The rhyme scheme "Sailing to Byzantium" is the same in all four stanzas. Take the first stanza:

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

The first six lines are ABABAB, and there is a rhyming couplet in the last two lines, making the whole stanza ABABABCC.


Half rhyme or slant rhyme, sometimes called near-rhyme or lazy rhyme, is a type of rhyme formed by words with similar but not identical sounds.

Emily Dickinson was noted for using such half rhymes, or slant rhymes, or near-rhymes, or lazy rhymes in her poetry.

The second stanza of Yeats' poem would have to be represented as DEDEDEFF, since there are no words in the second stanza that rhyme with any of the last lines in the first.

Then the third stanza would be GHGHGHII, and the fourth stanza would be JKJKJKLL.

Altogether the rhyme scheme would be:


Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is, and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

There are many cases in which the rhymes are only approximate. In the above four lines "animal" is rhymed with "soul" which went before it. Yeats is obviously not terribly concerned about exact rhyming and neither is he concerned about strict adherence to the dominant iambic pentameter rhythm. The line "Into the artifice of eternity," for example, has an extra syllable and deviates from iambic meter. It would be hard to scan; it almost sounds like prose.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since rhyme scheme is developed primarily through end rhyme, there is no obvious pattern of rhyme in these lines as they are taken out of context from the poem. The end words (desire, animal, me, and artifice) do not rhyme to the ear perfectly or approximately, and they do not create strong sight rhymes, words that look as if they rhyme. Me and artifice might be considered a weak sight rhyme, since me and ending syllable -ce look as if they rhyme. If so, then the rhyme scheme would be ABCC, with the last two words rhyming by sight.

The meter, pattern of rhythm in the lines, is not perfect, but it is very regular. The first three lines are iambic pentameter, featuring the weak/strong rhythm with 5 iambic feet per line. (An iambic foot is a measure in the line consisting of two syllables arranged in the weak/strong pattern.) The last line is iambic trimeter, featuring 3 iambic feet in the line.

Here is how the lines scan. The strong beats are underlined, and the lines are divided into feet:

Consume / my heart / away; / sick with / desire

And fast /ened to / a dy / ing an / imal

It knows / not what / it is; / and gath / er me

Into / the ar / tifice

The iambic pattern is very regular. Only the fourth foot in the first line is not the iambic. The strong/weak pattern in this one foot is an example of the trochaic pattern of rhythm.

epicq | Student

Just a quick note:

The last verse ends like this-

"Into the artifice of eternity."


quddoos | Student
x / x / x / / x x / 
Consume my heart away; sick with desire 
x / x (x) x / x / x x 
And fasten to a dying animal 
x / x x / x / x / 
It knows not what is; and gather me 
/ x x / x (/) x x / x x 
Into the artifice or eternity 

Difficult one, but I'd say the first line is definitely iambic pentameter, but the last three are iambic tetrameter. It's quite subjective though, because you may pronounce the words differently to me. For example, I have marked 'Into' as stressed in the first syllable, but you may stress the second syllable of the word. Syllables with brackets are interchangeable but don't affect the meter. 

As for rhyme scheme, I don't really see any rhyme in the first two lines, but the second to definitely do. I'd stretch it to AABB.


Check out Stephen Fry's "The Ode Less Travelled." It's a great book for understanding meter.
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Sailing to Byzantium

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