Internal rhymes in Dr. Seuss

Among various rhyming schemes, the internal rhymes should not be forgotten. It can serve to push forward the rhythm at a climatic moment, or give closure, or provide intratextual reference. Here is an example from Dr. Seuss' I wish that I had duck feet.

First off, one can question if an internal rhyme exists. It can be made external by a conceptual line break, and thereby explain the quickening effect of an internal rhyme. It hesitates between maintaining the full tempo of each line while threatening to double the tempo with two half-lines. In the context of Duck feet, the poem's 46 four line stanzas follow essentially rhyme pattern X,A,Y,A. Six of the stanzas have an internal rhyme in the third line. These can be interpreted, and are visually presented, as five line stanzas with rhyme pattern X,A,B,B,A. However, the B lines are each four syllables, whereas a typical line length is eight syllables. We are justified in maintaining that the five line stanzas are in fact four line stanzas where the third line is metrically split in two by the introduction of a rhyme at the line's midpoint.

The opening stanza:

I wish that I had duck feet.
And I can tell you why.
You can splash around in duck feet.
You don't have to keep them dry.
In stanza 8 the first example of internal rhyme occurs:
I wish I had two deer horns.
They would be a lot of fun.
Then I could wear
ten hats up there!
Big Bill can just wear one.
The introduction of deer horns is stanza 7, so this is the second stanza of the new wish.

Stanza 12 introduces the whale spout, and 13 employs the internal rhyme:

I won't have deer horns.
I'll have something else instead.
I wish I had a whale spout.
A whale spout on my head!

When days get hot it would be 
good / to spout my spout in school.
And then Miss Banks 
would say, "Thanks! Thanks!
You keep our school so cool."
In stanza 13 I took the liberty of moving good to the next line, to align with the 7/7/4/4/6 count of stanza 8.

The same trick applies to the elephant nose wish, introduced in stanza 24 with the internal rhyme in stanza 25,

If I can't have a tail,
I'll have a long, long nose!
A nose just like an elephant's
the longest nose that grows.

I wish I had a long, long
nose / and I can tell you why.
I think it would
be very good
to get at things up high.
So far, although stanzas 1, 12 and 24, with simple rhyming scheme X,A,Y,A, have inconsistent syllable counts, 7/6/8/7, 5/7/7/6, and 6/6/8/6 respectively, the internal rhyme lines, with rhyming scheme X,A,B,B,A, have never failed to follow the 7/7/4/4/6 meter. I think this accounts for the felt effectiveness of these stanzas at establishing an overall drive to the poem.

This pattern is faithfully continued as the second stanza of the final which-what-who wish, stanza 42. However, as the poem heads to its conclusion, the device becomes more frequent. It occurs very noticably in stanza 44, the turning point of the poem. Here the count is 8/7/4/4/6. But note also the internal rhyme is further forced upon the ear, and there is a strong iambic beat leading up to the triple repeated rhyme, in this, the most poingnant stanza of the poem:

They would put me in the zoo house
with my horns and nose and feet.
And hay, just hay,
two times a day,
is all I'd get to eat.
This, I feel, slows the poem considerably, in preparation for the density of the finalizing thoughts and moral sentiments. On the surface level, it also sets up the expectation that the final verse will contain a metrically split third line.

The poem does conclude this way:

I think there are some things
I do not wish to be.
And that is why
I think that I
just wish to be like me.
The meter is shortened to 6/6/4/4/6: The effect of the modified meter helps bring the poem to its conclusion, perhaps because all lines have an even number of syllables, perhaps because it externalizes a sense that there is little left to be said, as well as giving prominence to the thread of internal rhyme stanzas flowing throughout the poem.

Burton Rosenberg
March 27, 2003