What is the rhyme scheme of "Dover Beach"?

The rhyme scheme of "Dover Beach" is not fixed, so in that sense, it has no rhyme scheme. However, tracking the irregular end rhymes reveals that the first stanza is abacdbdcefcgfg, the second is hihjij, the third is kelmenml, and the fourth and final stanza is oppoaqqaa.

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When we discuss the "rhyme scheme" of a poem, we are referring to a fixed pattern of how the words at the end of each line rhyme (called "end rhyme"). To be considered a fixed rhyme scheme, end rhymes must follow a specific pattern, which the end rhymes in "Dover Beach" do not. For example, the word at the end of the first line of "Dover Beach," "tonight," rhymes with "light" at the end of the third line. The word at the end of the second line, "fair," rhymes with "air" at the end of the sixth line. The word "stand" at the end of the fourth line rhymes with "strand" at the end of the eighth line, and so on. More importantly, the four stanzas have no relation to each other in terms of length or rhyme pattern. Therefore, "Dover Beach" cannot be said to have a rhyme scheme. However, it does have trends in its irregular end rhymes that are interesting to track.

When we are attempting to figure out a poem's rhyme scheme, we assign a letter to the sound of each line's final word; the letter we assign it depends upon whether or not it rhymes with the final word of any line that has come before. So, we label the word "tonight" (line 1) with a, "fair" (line 2) with b, "light" (line 3) with a (because it rhymes with "tonight" in line 1), "stand" (line 4) with c, "bay" (line 5) with a d, "air" (line 6) with a b (because it rhymes with "fair" in line 2), and so forth. Here is a complete breakdown of the letters you could assign to the end rhymes in this poem:

a: rhymes with "tonight"
b: rhymes with "fair"
c: rhymes with "stand"
d: rhymes with "bay"
e: rhymes with "roar"
f: rhymes with "fling"
g: rhymes with "begin"
h: rhymes with "ago"
i: rhymes with "brought"
j: rhymes with "we"
k: rhymes with "faith"
l: rhymes with "furled"
m: rhymes with "hear"
n: rhymes with "breath"
o: rhymes with "true"
p: rhymes with "seems"
q: rhymes with "pain"

Using this method, the end rhyme pattern of the poem's first stanza is abacdbdcefcgfg. The end rhyme pattern of the poem's second stanza is hihjij. The end rhyme pattern of the third stanza is kelmenml. The end rhyme pattern of the poem's final stanza is oppoaqqaa.

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