The rhyme scheme in Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” is ABCB. Nevertheless, this American poet did take liberties with this model and doesn’t strictly observe exact rhyme in this poem.
The poem deals with the subject that death is in control so-to-speak when it comes to our lives. We have plans, aspirations, agendas, and such, and we want to continue on with really nothing getting in our way. However, Death (personified) is a tyrant in a way. It does not care about our concerns and promotes its own agenda, despite our best efforts to ultimately thwart it.
“Because I could not stop for Death” consists of six stanzas, each having four lines. The first stanza observes the ABCB rhyme scheme in a strict manner. Line two rhymes with line four exactly, with the words “me” and “Immortality”.
Stanza number two plays more loosely with the rhyme. In line two of this stanza, the last word is “away”. In line four of this stanza the last word is “Civility”, almost prompting the reader to modify the pronunciation to say “Civilitay” to keep a more strict rhyme because of the precedent set in the first stanza.
Stanza number three doesn’t really adhere to the ABCB rhyme scheme. It is a variation. Variation is used to great effect in formal poetry. It jars the readers “reading” in a sense. It breaks what can sometimes be a monotony to regular, metrical, rhyming poetry. It prevents a reader from falling into a type of trance, a slave to the meter, rhythm, and rhyme that embodies the poem.
The reader can become bored or indifferent as a poem can sometimes plod along in this manner; the reader ends up concentrating on the pull of the musicality of the poem and doesn’t ponder the actual meaning of the poem.
Try reading a long poem that observes strict meter and rhyme and see what can sometimes happen. As a result, variation is an excellent tool when use judiciously in formal poetry. The end word in line two of this stanza is “Ring”. The end word in line four of this stanza is “Sun”. No rhyme here. So, the rhyme scheme of stanza three is ABCD.
The last three stanzas revert to the rhyme scheme of the first two stanzas. Again, it is not strict rhyme all the time. Stanza number four does not adhere to exact rhyme with the words “chill” and “Tulle”. There is an inferred rhyme here – a loose rhyme.
Stanza number five has precise rhyme – the same two words “Ground”. Stanza number six has a loose rhyme again with the words “Day” and “Eternity”. Once again, this is almost prompting the reader to modify the pronunciation to say “Eternitay”.