From a repetition of lovely sounds in poetry to a passage of prose that rolls off the tongue, euphony examples can help you better understand this literary device. Euphony is any combination of words that is harmonious and beautiful to hear, and there are certain poems and works of literature that exemplify it.
Euphony refers to the musicality of language. It is beauty on a more fundamental level than imagery, themes, or a moving story. Instead, euphony simply refers to the beautiful sounds of words when they are read aloud. There are several tricks to help you identify euphony in the poetry and literature you read:
- Listen for muffled or soft consonant sounds. You’ll often hear M, N, W, R, F, H, and L.
- Listen for consonant sounds that vibrate or whisper, such as S, Sh, Th, V, and Z.
- Look for sound repetition. Alliteration is often a part of euphony, as well as consonance and assonance.
- Look for rhymes and slant rhymes, another type of sound repetition.
- Listen for a steady rhythm. Many works that are euphonic have a defined meter or pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
The best way to understand euphony is to read a passage aloud. These euphony examples from poetry and literature are a perfect introduction.To Autumn by John Keats
Listen to the beautiful repetition of sound in the first stanza of To Autumn by John Keats. The poem features imperfect iambic pentameter, a regular repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables. You’ll also hear soft consonants and a soothing rhyme scheme.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Euphony is more subtle in prose, but it’s still an important part of many great literary works. Consider this passage from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Here, Jane talks about her inner strength, and the words are beautiful because of the sound repetition. You’ll hear many soft and hissing consonants in this passage which combine to create a quiet loveliness.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
I can live alone if self-respect, and circumstances require me to do so. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is one of Robert Frost’s most famous poems. One of the reasons it has stood the test of time is the lovely way it rolls off the tongue when you read it aloud. The repetition of sounds and the steady rhythm of iambic tetrameter give it an exceptionally peaceful quality. These are all elements of euphony.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Almost everything written by Shakespeare displays euphony; it’s part of what makes his works so beloved. One great example of this is Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Here, you can tell that the words were meant to be spoken aloud on the stage; they flow in an easy iambic pentameter with parallel structure and repetition.
Dover Beach by Mathew Arnold
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
Mathew Arnold’s Dover Beach is another beautiful euphony example. The entire poem has a peaceful, lonely sound to the language that matches the themes. You’ll hear long Os, and many soft consonants. This is especially true in the final stanza.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is another euphony example in literature. While Hemingway’s style is synonymous with short sentences and simple language, it’s also full of sound repetition and parallel structure. In fact, it’s even more lovely to read this book aloud than it is to read it silently.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy.
One of the most famous poems of the 20th century, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is a triumph of euphony. The poetic form, which is a villanelle, requires repetition, but Dylan Thomas takes that even further by repeating sounds and not just lines. You’ll hear many long Is and soft consonants. The entire poem is beautiful, but the final stanza sums everything up with harmonious sounds.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Another way to understand euphony is to look at its opposite, cacophony. Instead of a harmonious combination of sounds, cacophony offers a disharmonious noise that creates a subtle tension in the reader. Once you’ve read examples of cacophony, you’ll be even better at recognizing euphony examples in the plays, poems, and books you read.