Internal rhyme in lyrics

Great lyricists have my endless admiration. They can express some part of the human condition and convey it to millions of people so effectively that it’s practically fixed in their DNA.

Been thinking lately about internal rhyme – “rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse, or between internal phrases across multiple lines.”

This takes a particularly adept lyricist:

Now you’re gone, it’s hotels and whiskey and sad-luck dames
And I don’t care if they miss me, I never remember their names

Tom Waits, “Blind Love” (1985)

Don’t know that I will, but until I can find me
The girl who’ll stay and won’t play games behind me

Neil Diamond, “Solitary Man” (1966)

What are your favorite examples of this technique?

Internal rhymes are called Leonine, supposedly after a Medieval poet who used the technique.

As Ambrose Bierce so cynically put it in his Devil’s Dictionary:

The Bugs Bunny classic “What Do They Do on a Rainy Night in Riiiiiiii-oooooooo?” has a bunch. The last one, which Bugs doesn’t actually get to sing in the cartoon:

“And whadda they do in ole Manhattan? Answer that’n you’ll be right. . .
Well, that’s what they do in Rio on a rainy night.”

That’s interesting, but I’m not sure if that’s 100% accurate. I’m not finding a lot of definitions online specifically for Leonine rhyme, but I do find this:

A form of internal rhyme in which the word preceding the caesura rhymes with the final word in the line, as in: “For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams” (Edgar Allan Poe).

That’s from Freedictionary. Wikipedia essentially says the same thing, except with the words “often before a caesura.” At any case, not all internal rhymes are Leonine rhymes, as an internal rhyme can occur anywhere within a line, and it’s also used to refer to rhymes where a word in the middle of one line is rhymed with a word in the middle of the next line, rather than being end-rhymed (as mentioned in the OP).

As for the OP, does rap count? Lots of internal rhymes all over the place there.


OK, a simple one that most know, from “Lose Yourself”:

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already: mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
What he wrote down. The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth but the words won’t come out
He’s choking, how? Everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over – blaow!"*

Some of the stronger near-rhymes are bolded there, as well. I use that as an example of a particularly good lyric, but pretty much every rap is going to have internal rhyme up the wazoo. Plus in the example above, you also have “knees weak” (assonance) “arms are” (you might want to count that as near-rhyme), “vomit on his” (also near-rhyme). In the “what he wrote down” lines, you have repetition of the “o” sound in the lines following: “wrote/whole/goes/so/opens/won’t/choking/joking/over.” And similarly, the “ow” sounds in those lines, too “down/crowd/loud/mouth/out/how/now/out/blaow!” All that assonance and internal rhyme around the sounds “oh” and “ow.”

The Texas Tornadoes:

Who were you thinking of, when we were making love, last night?
Was it a good-looking stranger, or some old friend of mine?
You got more out of it, than I put into it, last night.
Who were you thinking of, when we were loving last night?

Tom Lehrer:

All the world seems in tune, on a sunny afternoon
As we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.

I ache for the touch of your lips, dear,
But more for the touch of your whips, dear.
You can raise welts, like nobody else,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

Tolkien’s Song of Earendil (supposedly written by Bilbo in Rivendell) is written in a complex meter and is chock full of internal rhymes, which occur in nearly every pair of lines: the last word of one line rhymes with a word in the middle of the following line.

Beneath the Moon and under star
he wandered far from northern strands,
bewildered on enchanted ways
beyond the days of mortal lands.
From gnashing of the Narrow Ice
where shadow lies on frozen hills,
from nether heats and burning waste
he turned in haste, and roving still
on starless waters far astray
at last he came to Night of Naught,
and passed, and never sight he saw
of shining shore nor light he sought.

Strawberry Alarm Clock, “Incense and Peppermints”

Good sense, innocence, cripplin’ mankind
Dead kings, many things I can’t define
Occasions, persuasions clutter your mind
Incense and peppermints, the color of time

and, in a later verse,

To divide the cockeyed world in two
Throw your pride to one side, it’s the least you can do
Beatniks and politics, nothin’ is new
A yardstick for lunatics, one point of view

The Charlie Daniels Band:

The Devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin’ for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind ‘cause he was way behind and he was willing to make a deal
When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot.
And the Devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said, “Boy, let me tell you what.”

“I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player, too.
And if you’d care to take a dare I’ll make a bet with you.
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the Devil his due.
I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul 'cause I think I’m better than you.”

The boy said, “My name’s Johnny, and it might be a sin,
But I’ll take your bet; you’re gonna regret 'cause I’m the best there’s ever been.”

“Santa Baby” is full of internal rhymes, many of them only two syllables apart.

Santa baby, just slip a Sable under the tree for me
Been an awful good girl
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, a '54 convertible too, light blue
I’ll wait up for you, dear
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Think of all the fun I’ve missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed
Next year, I could be just as good
If you check off my Christmas list

Santa baby, I want a yacht, and really, that’s not a lot
Been an angel all year
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa honey, one little thing I really need
The deed to a platinum mine
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex and checks
Sign your “X” on the line
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s
I really do believe in you
Let’s see if you believe in me

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing
A ring, I don’t mean on the phone
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Some of Chino XL’s “Wordsmith”:

Since born in my mama vaginal sauna
As a sonogram, I been fond of phonics
It’s ironic. Even as an embryonic
Fed through an umbilical—don’t that sound biblical?
I’ve been a terror since I teareth out of that uterus
Evil plans were made to defeat us as a fetus
Though now I walk in infamy, as a child, they had it in for me
Was raised with guns and infantry in diapers at an infancy
The childhood of a hood that was raised in the hood: cops said
“Put your hands in the hot sky,” threw my hands down on the hot hood
Can’t whine or drink wine—nine planets planned it
‘Til it became apparent my parents shouldn’t have been a parent
State to state, we ran some. I wasn’t worth no ransom
Money, won’t you hand some? A nigga wasn’t handsome
Raised the mind like Charles Manson’s. Knew I was some man’s son