A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter. While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic couplets. The Poetic epigram is also in the couplet form. Couplets can also appear in more complex rhyme schemes. For example, Shakespearean sonnets end with a couplet.
Rhyming couplets are one of the simplest rhyme schemes in poetry. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales are written in rhyming couplets. John Dryden in the 17th century and Alexander Pope in the 18th century were both well known for their writing in heroic couplets.
Because the rhyme comes so quickly in rhyming couplets, it tends to call attention to itself. Good rhyming couplets tend to "snap" as both the rhyme and the idea come to a quick close in two lines. Here are some examples of rhyming couplets where the sense as well as the sound "rhymes":
On the other hand, because rhyming couplets have such a predictable rhyme scheme, they can feel artificial and plodding. Here is a Pope parody of the predictable rhymes of his era:
Couplets in Chinese poetry
Chinese couplets known as duilian or "contrapuntal couplets" may be seen on doorways in Chinese communities worldwide. Couplets displayed as part of the Chinese New Year festival, on the first morning of the New Year, are called chunlian. These are usually purchased at a market a few days before and glued to the doorframe. The text of the couplets is often traditional and contains hopes for prosperity. Other chunlian reflect more recent concerns. For example, the CCTV New Year's Gala usually promotes couplets reflecting current political themes in mainland China.
Some Chinese couplets may consists as simple as two lines of four characters each. Couplets are read from top to bottom where the first line starts from the right.
Couplets in Indian poetry
Rhyming couplets are also used in other poetic traditions, including non-Western ones. Kurals, which are a subclass of the Venpa class of Tamil poetry, are couplets. Tirukkural is a popular book written in Kural Venpa form. In Hindi, there are other kinds of couplets as well, including: Doha, Sortha, Chaupai, Chhand etc.
Hindi poets such as Rahim, Kabir, Tulsidas, Bihari, Surdas and many more were pioneers in this form.
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