GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Identification of World Poetry Before 1925

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Example Question #1 : Identification Of World Poetry Before 1925

When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake of his home, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his spirit and solitude, and for ten years did not weary of it. But at last his heart changed,—and rising one morning with the rosy dawn, he went before the sun, and spake thus unto it:

Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those for whom thou shinest!

For ten years hast thou climbed hither unto my cave: thou wouldst have wearied of thy light and of the journey, had it not been for me, mine eagle, and my serpent.

But we awaited thee every morning, took from thee thine overflow and blessed thee for it.

Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it.

I would fain bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches.

Therefore must I descend into the deep: as thou doest in the evening, when thou goest behind the sea, and givest light also to the nether-world, thou exuberant star!

Like thee must I go down, as men say, to whom I shall descend.

Bless me, then, thou tranquil eye, that canst behold even the greatest happiness without envy!

Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of thy bliss!

Lo! This cup is again going to empty itself, and Zarathustra is again going to be a man.

Thus began Zarathustra's down-going.

Who wrote the above lines?

Possible Answers:

Voltaire

Rousseau

Goethe

Nietzsche

Cervantes

Correct answer:

Nietzsche

Explanation:

This excerpt is taken from the prologue to Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1883 Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book For All and None. The work is highly philosophical and introduces concepts such as eternal recurrence and the Übermensch, or “Overman.”

Passage adapted from Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book For All and None by Fredrich Nietzche (1883; trans. Common 1909)

Example Question #2 : Identification Of World Poetry Before 1925

MEPHISTOPHELES:
Since Thou, O Lord, deign'st to approach again
And ask us how we do, in manner kindest,
And heretofore to meet myself wert fain,
Among Thy menials, now, my face Thou findest.
Pardon, this troop I cannot follow after
With lofty speech, though by them scorned and spurned:
My pathos certainly would move Thy laughter,
If Thou hadst not all merriment unlearned.
Of suns and worlds I've nothing to be quoted;
How men torment themselves, is all I've noted.
The little god o' the world sticks to the same old way,
And is as whimsical as on Creation's day.
Life somewhat better might content him,
But for the gleam of heavenly light which Thou hast lent him:
He calls it Reason—thence his power's increased,
To be far beastlier than any beast.
Saving Thy Gracious Presence, he to me
A long-legged grasshopper appears to be,
That springing flies, and flying springs,
And in the grass the same old ditty sings.
Would he still lay among the grass he grows in!
Each bit of dung he seeks, to stick his nose in.

Who wrote the above work?

Possible Answers:

Wagner

Goethe

Rilke

Marlowe

Nietzsche

Correct answer:

Goethe

Explanation:

This text is taken from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1808 tragedy Faust. One of the most famous characters from this work is Mephistopheles, the devil with whom the eponymous protagonist Faust makes a dangerous bargain. Christopher Marlowe’s earlier play, The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, also contains the character Mephistopheles, but the play's diction and syntax are much more antiquated, as Marlowe’s work was written in 1592.

 

Adapted from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1808; trans. Taylor 1890)

Example Question #51 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.

Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.

We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.

While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.

Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.

The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.

The above text is taken from which book of the Bible?

Possible Answers:

Genesis

Job

Exodus

Song of Solomon

Ecclesiastes

Correct answer:

Song of Solomon

Explanation:

This text is taken from the famous Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, also known as the Canticles. This version is from the King James Bible.

 

Passage adapted from Song of Solomon 1.9-17 in the Oxford Standard King James Bible

Example Question #3 : Identification Of World Poetry Before 1925

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,

    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

What does man gain by all the toil

    at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes,

    but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises, and the sun goes down,

    and hastens to the place where it rises.

The above text is taken from which book of the Bible?

Possible Answers:

Song of Solomon

Ecclesiastes

Exodus

Genesis

Job

Correct answer:

Ecclesiastes

Explanation:

This passage is from the first chapter of Ecclesiastes and is one of the most famous Old Testament verses. Ecclesiastes is a work that many modern and contemporary writers allude to or even title their work after (e.g. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises). The version here is taken from the King James edition of the Bible.

 

Adapted from Ecclesiastes 1.2-5 in the Oxford Standard King James Bible

Example Question #53 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

Which major Latin poem comprises more than 250 myths about everything from the creation of the world to the ascendency of Julius Caesar?

Possible Answers:

The Odyssey

The Metamorphoses

Oedipus Rex

The Oresteia

The Iliad

Correct answer:

The Metamorphoses

Explanation:

Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a collection of narrative poetry written around the year 8 CE, features a wide range of styles and subjects and, naturally, many myths about metamorphosis or change.

Example Question #54 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

Arms, and the man I sing, who, forced by fate,

And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,

Expelled and exiled, left the Trojan shore.

Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,

And in the doubtful war, before he won

The Latian realm, and built the destined town;

His banished gods restored to rites divine,

And settled sure succession in his line,

From whence the race of Alban fathers come,

And the long glories of majestic Rome.

These lines open which epic poem?

Possible Answers:

The Odyssey

Lamentation for Ur

The Aeneid

The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Metamorphoses

Correct answer:

The Aeneid

Explanation:

One of the best known lines of Latin poetry is this first line of Virgil’s Aeneid, “I sing of arms and the man.” The Aeneid was written around the 20s BCE in dactylic hexameter and recounts the legend of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy and founded Rome.

Passage adapted from The Aeneid, l.1-10 (trans. Dryden)

Example Question #55 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

Artisans, raise high the roof beam!

Tall is the bridegroom as Ares,

Taller by far than the tallest,

O Hymenæus!

 

Ay! towering over his fellows,

As over men of all other

Lands towers the Lesbian singer,

O Hymenæus!

 

Well-favored, too, is the maiden,

Eyes that are sweeter than honey,

Fair both in face and in figure,

O Hymenæus!

Based on the content of this poem, who is the likely author?

Possible Answers:

Aeschylus

Sophocles

Homer

Sappho

Euripides

Correct answer:

Sappho

Explanation:

The key to this question is the mention of the singer from the island of Lesbos, which was the Greek poet Sappho’s birthplace. Sappho was a lyric poet who lived during the 600s BCE. Much of her poetry, which is characterized by the Sapphic stanza seen above, has been lost or exists only in fragments today.

Passage adapted from "Hymenaios" in The Poems of Sappho: An Interpretative Rendition Into English translated by John Myers O'Hara (1910)

Example Question #56 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

What is the name of the Mesopotamian epic poem that is often considered the first great work of literature?

Possible Answers:

The Iliad

The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Odyssey

The Aeneid

Lamentation for Ur

Correct answer:

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Explanation:

Written more than 4,000 years ago, The Epic of Gilgamesh discusses the works of Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, and the wild man Enkidu. It was written on clay tablets and exists today in various forms, including the Old Babylonian version and the Akkadian version.

Example Question #4 : Identification Of World Poetry Before 1925

Which of the following works of ancient Greek poetry was written by Hesiod?

Possible Answers:

The Odyssey

The Oresteia

Works and Days

The Iliad

Metamorphoses

Correct answer:

Works and Days

Explanation:

Hesiod was an ancient Greek poet who lived and wrote around the same time as Homer. His best known works of poetry are Theogeny, Works and Days, and Shield of Heracles. Works and Days is centered on a body of agrarian advice and a farmer’s almanac in which the speaker instructs his brother Perses in farming.

Example Question #58 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

As I was going down impassive Rivers,
I no longer felt myself guided by haulers:
Yelping redskins had taken them as targets
And had nailed them naked to colored stakes.

I was indifferent to all crews,
The bearer of Flemish wheat or English cottons
When with my haulers this uproar stopped
The Rivers let me go where I wanted.

Into the furious lashing of the tides
More heedless than children's brains the other winter
I ran! And loosened Peninsulas
Have not undergone a more triumphant hubbub

The storm blessed my sea vigils
Lighter than a cork I danced on the waves
That are called eternal rollers of victims,
Ten nights, without missing the stupid eye of the lighthouses!

Who is the author of this poem?

Possible Answers:

Paul Verlaine

Guillaume Apollinaire

Émile Zola

Stéphane Mallarmé

Arthur Rimbaud

Correct answer:

Arthur Rimbaud

Explanation:

These lines come from the opening of "The Drunken Boat,” one of Arthur Rimbaud’s most famous poems. Written in 1871, the poem was lauded as an avant-garde work for its vivid, often unsettling imagery and its fragmentary first-person narrative.

Passage adapted from "The Drunken Boat" by Arthur Rimbaud (1871)

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