“The Duck and the Kangaroo” is a well-known poem by the nineteenth-century English poet Edward Lear. The poem tells a simple, humorous story about a duck who wants to escape the confines of its small pond; seeing a kangaroo and envying its ability to hop, the duck asks for a ride on its back. After some back-and-forth banter, the kangaroo obliges, and the two hop around quite happily.
The rhyme scheme of Lear’s poem follows a regular pattern, ababccdd. In other words, the first four lines of every eight-line verse feature alternating rhymes, while the last four lines are made up of two couplets. Lear’s choice of rhyme scheme is not arbitrary. Instead, it provides the poem with a constant, predictable, easy-to-follow structure that is quite suitable for its simple, humorous subject. The structure of the poem makes it understandable by children and adult readers alike.
Formally, the rhyme scheme also supplied Lear with opportunities to increase the poem’s humorous effects. In the first place, the last couplet of every stanza uses an “oo” sounding rhyme and ends with the word “Kangaroo.” This serves as a kind of chorus or refrain, making the poem seem even more memorable and song-like. In some cases, other lines also end in the “oo” sound, giving the poem even more of a rolling, sing-song quality. For instance, because of the repeated “oo” sounds, the first stanza’s rhyme scheme could also technically be described as ababccaa, and the second stanza’s as ababccbb.
The need to fill the rhyme scheme and match the “oo” sounds also increases the poem’s comedic effect. Take the closing of stanza three, for instance, where the kangaroo complains about the idea of the duck riding on his back:
"And there seems but one objection,
Which is, if you’ll let me speak so bold,
Your feet are unpleasantly wet and cold,
And would probably give me the roo-
Matiz!" said the Kangaroo.
Lear changes the spelling of and hyphenates the word “rheumatism” to force it to fit the rhyme scheme, and the resulting effect is silly, as suits the poem overall.