As a poem written in free verse, “On the Pulse of Morning” doesn’t use a rigid rhyme scheme. In fact, most of the poem doesn’t rhyme. Poets often use rhyme to help establish a regular sense of pace, enabling readers to get into the groove of the rhythm. End rhymes in particular help us gauge the measure of passing lines. In Angelou’s case, however, the lack of rhyme forces us to pay closer attention to the dynamics of rhythm created by variations in line length. At times, Angelou’s free verse sounds more like prose than poetry. That said, the poem isn’t completely devoid of rhyme. Angelou occasionally invokes rhyme to help emphasize key points in the poem. For instance, an example of rhyme appears at the end of the first stanza (lines 7–8):

     Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
     Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

In this case, the rhyme created by the words “doom” and “gloom” help establish the poem’s motif of shadow and gloom. Here, the “gloom of dust and ages” refers to the kind of obscurity that can cloud our understanding of the past. The importance of facing the past will later develop into a significant theme of the poem, but Angelou uses internal rhyme to signal its importance early on.

The only section of the poem to use a regular rhyme scheme comes in the seventh stanza. There, the speaker provides a long list of different groups of people who have listened to the Rock, the River, and the Tree, and who wish to respond to their call:

     So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
     The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
     The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
     The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
     The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
     The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.

In this passage (lines 43–48), the rhyming couplets help establish a sense of order in what is otherwise a long list. This use of rhyme has both practical and symbolic importance. The rhyme has a practical value in the way that it helps maintain the reader’s attention. It can be easy to lose focus when reading long lists, but the rhyming couplets create distinctly audible units that make it easier for the reader to stay tuned in. The rhyme in this passage also has a more symbolic importance in the way that, as an audible ordering device, it creates a subtle suggestion of unity across difference. Despite how different each of the groups listed here are, the rhyme scheme implies that, in some deeper way, they belong together.