What does the  rhyme scheme tell us in "My Picture Left in Scotland" by Ben Jonson

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clarendon | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Assuming that the poem is meant to be broken up into two stanzas, the first being 10 and the second being 8, the rhyme scheme is as follows: stanza 1:abbbacccbb and stanza 2: abbaacca.

There is no set rhyme scheme for a 10 line stanza in English (such as the fixed forms for a sonnet).  In this 10 line stanza, there are only three groups of rhymes, meaning that the rhyme is emphasized more than in most forms.  The two triplets also add to this effect.  Jonson is mocking younger rhymesters who sit under "Apollo's tree" (line 10) and attempt to write love poetry.

The second stanza is an octet, a variation on the beginning of an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet (which usually begins abbaabba).  Especially if one looks at the original spelling, I take lines 11 and 14 to rhyme (at least as a near-rhyme).  Notice also the three couplets in a row (bbaacc) that divide up what would be a couplet if you had only lines 11 and 18.  This stanza is about how Jonson would like to be a couple with the lady, but his age and physical features prevent it.  Hence we have a couplet that is physically divided from the six other lines.