Rhyme - History


The earliest surviving evidence of rhyming is the Chinese Shi Jing (ca. 10th century BC). Rhyme is used occasionally in the poems of classical antiquity. For instance, Catullus wrote a poem that rhymed, given here. The ancient Greeks knew rhyme, and rhymes in The Wasps by Aristophanes are noted by a translator. Rhyme is also occasionally used in the Bible.

According to some archaic sources, Irish literature introduced the rhyme to Early Medieval Europe, though this is a disputed claim; in the 7th century we find the Irish had brought the art of rhyming verses to a high pitch of perfection. Also in the 7th Century, rhyme was used in the Qur'an. The leonine verse is notable for introducing rhyme into High Medieval literature in the 12th century. From the 12th to the 20th centuries, European poetry is dominated through rhyme.

Since languages change over time, lines which rhymed in the past may no longer rhyme in today's language and it may not be clear how one would pronounce the words so that they rhyme. For example:

Rejoice, O Judah, and in songs divine
With cherubim and seraphim harmonious join.
from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus (libretto by Thomas Morell)

"Should we really sing 'harmonious jine' ?"

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