What is Assonance?

What is Assonance?


Have you ever heard a line of poetry whether classical or even the modern ones, and noticed that there are lines that have a very similar sound through the words that are spoken out loud? You may have wondered what kind of technique it is? Then you are probably referring to assonance, which is a figurative term used to refer to the repetition of a vowel sound that is usually found in a line of text or poetry. A similar technique and one that is often used in conjunction with assonance is alliteration; wherein it uses the repetition of same beginning consonant sound. So, do not confuse the two. We will now talk about assonance and some of its examples in this article.

The use of assonance is the same reason why people use alliteration as it can have an effect on the rhythm, tone and mood of a line; making it more memorable and giving it a form of life.

Here are some examples in poems that use assonance:

  • “In the over-mastering loneliness of that moment, his whole life seemed to him nothing but vanity.” – “Night Rider” by Robert Penn Warren
  • “A lanky, six-foot, pale boy with an active Adam’s apple, ogling Lo and her orange-brown bare midriff, which I kissed five minutes later, Jack.” – “Lotita” by Vladimir Nabokov
  • “Strips of tinfoil winking like people” – “The Bee Meeting” by Sylvia Plath
  • “If I bleat when I speak it’s because I just got . . . fleeced.” – “Deadwood” by Al Swearengen
  • “It beats . . . as it sweeps . . . as it cleans!” – slogan for Hoover vacuum cleaners
  • “Those images that yet/Fresh images beget,/That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.” – “Byzantium” by W.B. Yeats
  • “Soft language issued from their spitless lips as they swished in low circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds” – “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce
  • “The spider skins lie on their sides, translucent and ragged, their legs drying in knots.” – “Holy the Firm” by Annie Dillard
  • “The setting sun was licking the hard bright machine like some great invisible beast on its knees.” – “Death, Sleep, and the Traveler” by John Hawkes
  • “I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless.” – “With Love” by Thin Lizzy
  • “Hear the mellow wedding bells” by Edgar Allen Poe
  • “Try to light the fire”
  • “It’s hot and it’s monotonous.” by Sondheim
  • “The crumbling thunder of seas” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Here are some examples of assonance in music:

  • “On the real, it’s a wrap, how could you possibly stop the Apocalypse
    When I’m atomic bombing the populous
    Shock the metropolis hostile as a kid popping the Glock at his moms
    And his pops then he hops in his drop with his iPod rocking his slaughterish
    Documentation of lyrics I write with confidence
    Write like a columnist slash novelist
    I’m in this game to demolish, establish my dominance
    Over prominent rappers you popping shit to ya opposite
    I can spit ominous so spit politics
    Now I’m Haile Selassie, Gandhi and Pac of this hip hop genre, bitch!” – The end of Crooked I’s verse on Loud Noises.
  • “My thoughts are sporadic, I act like I’m an addict
    I rap like I’m addicted to smack like I’m Kim Mathers.
    But I don’t want to go forth and back in constant battles
    The fact is I would rather sit back and bomb some rappers.
    So this is like a full blown attack I’m launching at them
    The track is on some battling raps who want some static
    ‘Cause I don’t really think that the fact that I’m Slim matters
    A plaque of platinum status is whack if I’m not the baddest.” – The end of the third verse from ‘Til I Collapse.
  • “I ain’t lookin’ to block you up
    Shock or knock or lock you up
    Analyze you, categorize you
    Finalize you or advertise you
    All I really want to do
    Is, baby, be friends with you” – Bob Dylan’s All I Really Want To Do.
  • “Known narcissists, sipping on arsenic
    Carved carcasses in the garage, don’t park in it
    Hard as finding retarded kids at Harvard
    It’s Wolf Gang barking keep you up like car alarms and shit” – Earl Sweatshirt’s Assmilk verses.
  • “And in the air the fireflies
    Our only light in paradise
    We’ll show the world they were wrong
    And teach them all to sing along” – Nickelback’s If Everyone Cared.
  • “Life it seems will fade away
    Drifting further every day
    Getting lost within myself
    Nothing matters, no one else” – Metallica’s Fade to Black.

Examples of assonance from extracts from literary works.

  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
    “…He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.
    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.”
  • Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
    “Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To say that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.”
  • Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
    “…Now I will do nothing but listen,
    To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.
    I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
    Clack of sticks cooking my meals.
    I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
    I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
    Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night…”
  • Daffodils by William Wordsworth
    “I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…”
  • Paradise Lost by Milton
    “…Behind him cast; the broad circumference
    Hung on his shoulders like the Moon, whose Orb
    Through Optic Glass the Tuscan Artist views
    At Ev’ning from the top of Fesole
    Or in Valdarno, to descry new Lands,
    Rivers or Mountains in her spotty Globe…”

Examples of assonance in tongue twisters:

  • “Betty bought butter but the butter was bitter, so Betty bought better butter to make the bitter butter better.”
  • “A skunk sat on a stump. The stump thought the skunk stunk. The skunk thought the stump stunk. What stunk, the skunk or the stump?”
  • “Sally sells sea shells beside the sea shore”
  • “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
    As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood.”
  • “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
    A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
    If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?”

Short examples of assonance

  • I lie down by the side of my bride.
  • Hear the lark and harken to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground.
  • It’s hot and it’s monotonous.
  • The crumbling thunder of seas.
  • Try to light the fire.
  • Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geese.
  • Hear the mellow wedding bells.
  • Take the gun and have fun.
  • Play with the clay to make the dolls.
  • Bake the cake and eat quickly.
  • The camp is foiled as the soil is damp.

The Pros and Cons of Using Assonance

Pros

If you are going to try using assonance in your lines then you will notice that they would feel more vibrant and become a lot more easier to remember compared to lines wherein you abstained from using assonance. If you try to read your lines they would also become even more interesting and assonance can also work well if you use it with figures of speech like similes, metaphors example, hyperbole expression, onomatopoeia, and the like. Assonance also has quite a charm to it that it can easily set the mood of your lines, it is very subtle and sometimes only works on a subconscious level. When you use long vowel sounds it will slow down the energy and make the mood much more somber, while using those high sounds have the potential to increase the energy level of the lines.

Cons

Using assonance may sound like it could be a fun experience but there are some problems when it comes to actually applying them to your lines. One of these problems would be that it could be challenging to find the right combination of words to make it sound right, another problem would be that using assonance may not sound right overall and it could make your lines bad compared to if you decided not to use assonance in the first place. It could destroy the balance you sought for.