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Assonance, also known as "slant rhyme," is a repetition of vowel sounds that creates an illusion of rhyming. Wikipedia notes that it's "used in (mainly modern) English poetry."

Which leads me to believe that from Shakespeare's times and up to, say, the end of the 19th Century, the concept was frowned on by purists. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that Keats or Byron ever used it.

I realize that in different regions of the English-speaking world different things are pronounced differently. That said, my ear (accustomed to the way certain vowels and consonants are pronounced along the Eastern Seaboard) tells me that "defiance" and "lions" do not rhyme.

If, for instance, you wrote a twenty-page-long poem; and if one of the poem's purposes was to imitate, or stylize, early 19th Century poetry; and if that poem consisted entirely of iambic lines; and if all those lines rhymed; and if all those rhymes were perfect or near-perfect - "defiance" and "lions" would stick out like an infected thumb.

Am I wrong?

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  • Assonance does not mean the same thing as slant rhyme. Nov 2 '15 at 18:27
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    To expand my previous comment (which I realize is too terse), assonance is generally applied to repeating vowel sounds internal to a line of poetry, and slant rhyme to words at the end of lines. Nov 2 '15 at 18:43
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Yes, you are incorrect about assonance (at least as I understand your assumptions.) That makes answering your question a bit tricky, because your presuppositions are wrong to begin with. And, no matter where you're from, odds are you'd pronounce then similarly.

About your assertions.

Assonance takes place when two or more words close to one another repeat the same vowel sound but start with different consonant sounds.

Assonance is common in Sailing to Byzantium by W. B. Yeats, (1865-1939)

That is no country for old men. The young In one another’s arms, birds in the trees...

Or She Walks in Beauty by George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

The stanza rime is ababab, but assonates as aaaaaa. This kind of double-effect was highly prized by Keats, Shelley and Byron, and others. And I'd call Yeats a purist. Interesting is the assonance placement of "starry skies" and "dark and bright", and "that's best" and "aspect". There's enough assonance here to float a boat.

Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 55 also used assonance:

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory. ...

Never underestimate great poets.

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