GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Literary Analysis of British Poetry 1660–1925

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Subject Test: Literature in English

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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Example Question #11 : Literary Analysis

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
 
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

The versification of the poem would be best classified as __________.

Possible Answers:

trochaic verse

blank verse

sprung rhythm

running rhythm

free verse

Correct answer:

sprung rhythm

Explanation:

Sprung rhythm is a rhythmic structure that was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Rather than using lines built around metric feet containing a set number of syllables, sprung rhythm is structured around feet with a variable number of syllables, with the stress always falling on the first syllable in the foot. Sprung rhythm is based on the rhythmic structure of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

Passage adapted from "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1918)

Example Question #12 : Literary Analysis

Oh, weep for Adonais! The quick Dreams,
       The passion-winged Ministers of thought,
       Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams
       Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught
       The love which was its music, wander not—
       Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,
       But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot
       Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,
They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again.

This poem from which this excerpt is taken best exemplifies __________.

Possible Answers:

a folk ballad

a lover's lament

an eclogue

an ode

a pastoral elegy

Correct answer:

a pastoral elegy

Explanation:

A pastoral elegy is a poem of mourning sung by or featuring a shepherd or shepherds. The poem from which this is taken is among the most famous pastoral elegies written in the English Language. The fact that the excerpt begins "Oh weep for Adonais!" should clue you in to the fact that it is from some type elegiac poem, and the description of the "Passion-winged Ministers of thought" as the deceased's "Flocks" is a clear indication of a conventional pastoral elegy.

Passage adapted from Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley, I.1-9 (1821)

Example Question #13 : Literary Analysis

Oh, weep for Adonais! The quick Dreams,
       The passion-winged Ministers of thought,
       Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams
       Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught
       The love which was its music, wander not—
       Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,
       But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot
       Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,
They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again.

The verse form in this poem most closely resembles that in which of the following works?

Possible Answers:

Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard"

Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde

Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A.H.H.

John Milton's Lycidas

Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene

Correct answer:

Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene

Explanation:

Shelley wrote the poem in what are known as Spenserian stanzas. The Spenserian stanza was first invented by Edmund Spenser for his allegorical epic, The Faerie Queene, and consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter followed by an alexandrine (a line of iambic hexameter). The rhyme scheme of the Spenserian Stanza is A-B-A-B-B-C-B-C-C.

Passage adapted from Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley, I.1-9 (1821)

Example Question #14 : Literary Analysis

If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some hidden Spirit shall inquire thy Fate,
Haply some hoary-headed Swain may say,
"Oft have we seen him at the Peep of Dawn
Brushing with hasty Steps the Dews away
To meet the Sun upon the upland Lawn.
There at the Foot of yonder nodding Beech
That wreathes its old fantastic Roots so high,
His listless Length at Noontide wou'd he stretch,
And pore upon the Brook that babbles by."

What form does this poem take?

Possible Answers:

Ballad

Ode

Eulogy

Villanelle

Sestina

Correct answer:

Ode

Explanation:

Although the poem’s title suggests it is an elegy, the work is really more similar to an ode, or a lyrical stanza. The poem is mainly concerned with a deep contemplation of death and life after death, and it mourns general human mortality much more than any single individual in the churchyard.

Passage adapted from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray, ln.95-104 (1751)

Example Question #15 : Literary Analysis

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
If She inspire, and He approve my lays.

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Rage?

What genre is this poem classified as?

Possible Answers:

Epic

Comedic

Melodramatic

Mock-heroic

Tragicomic

Correct answer:

Mock-heroic

Explanation:

The Rape of the Lock is a famous mock-heroic poem. This genre of poetry parodies classical epics, exaggerating situations and characters to make them worthy of (satirically) epic narratives.

Passage adapted from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, I.1-12 (1712; ed. 1906)

Example Question #16 : Literary Analysis

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
If She inspire, and He approve my lays.

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Rage?

What is the meter of this poem?

Possible Answers:

Blank verse

Spondaic pentameter

Free verse

Heroic couplets

Iambic tetrameter

Correct answer:

Heroic couplets

Explanation:

Like most mock-heroic poems, this work relies on heroic couplets, or rhyming lines of iambic pentameter.

Passage adapted from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, I.1-12 (1712; ed. 1906)

Example Question #17 : Literary Analysis

     Most epic poets plunge 'in medias res'
       (______ makes this the heroic turnpike road),
     And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
       What went before—by way of episode,
     While seated after dinner at his ease,
       Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
     Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
     Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

     That is the usual method, but not mine—
       My way is to begin with the beginning;
     The regularity of my design
       Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
     And therefore I shall open with a line
       (Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
     Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
     And also of his mother, if you'd rather.

Who is the author referred to in line 2?

Possible Answers:

Horace

Petronius

Ovid

Longinus

Correct answer:

Horace

Explanation:

The Roman poet Horace wrote Ars Poetica, a how-to guide or instruction manual for aspiring poets in which he coined the phrase "in medias res," which translates to into the middle of things. To create reader interest from the get-go, Horace recommends that poets start from the middle point of a story, instead of from the beginning, and this is what Byron takes issue with here, albeit ironically.

Note the "Horace," "heroic", "hero" alliteration.

While Longinus did write a treatise on poetry (On the Sublime), he is not associated with the doctrine of "in medias res."

Furthermore, the meter calls for a disyllabic (two-syllable) word, so "Longinus" and "Petronius" wouldn't really scan. 

Passage adapted from Don Juan by George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1819)

Example Question #18 : Literary Analysis

     Most epic poets plunge 'in medias res'
       (______ makes this the heroic turnpike road),
     And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
       What went before—by way of episode,
     While seated after dinner at his ease,
       Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
     Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
     Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

     That is the usual method, but not mine—
       My way is to begin with the beginning;
     The regularity of my design
       Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
     And therefore I shall open with a line
       (Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
     Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
     And also of his mother, if you'd rather.

 

How do the two highlighted lines relate to each other?

Possible Answers:

The second line exemplifies how the poet has gone through great pains to avoid "sinning"

The second line is a partial critique of the first one.

The second line is an ironic comment on the first one

The second line is an acknowledgement that the poet might have sinned, although only time will tell.

Correct answer:

The second line is an ironic comment on the first one

Explanation:

The stanzas are highly ironic as Byron, on the one hand, goes to great pains to explain how dangerous it is to digress (the sin of "wandering") when writing poetry but, on the other hand, takes great pleasure in digressing at the same time.

This irony is brought to the fore with the "sinning"/"spinning" rhyme. Describing how long it took him to pen the line instead of actually getting on with the story is an example of a digression that has nothing to do with the actual story of Don Juan. As such, the line makes a mockery of the idea that "wandering" is the worst of sinning.

 

Passage adapted from Don Juan by George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1819)

Example Question #19 : Literary Analysis

     Most epic poets plunge 'in medias res'
       (______ makes this the heroic turnpike road),
     And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
       What went before—by way of episode,
     While seated after dinner at his ease,
       Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
     Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
     Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.

     That is the usual method, but not mine—
       My way is to begin with the beginning;
     The regularity of my design
       Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
     And therefore I shall open with a line
       (Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
     Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
     And also of his mother, if you'd rather.

 

The author of this stanza is __________.

Possible Answers:

Blake

Byron

Wordsworth

Clare

Correct answer:

Byron

Explanation:

The two stanzas are from Canto I of Lord Byron's "epic satire" Don Juan. The other three authors are not known for reworkings of the Don Juan story.

More tellingly, the style of the work and the stanzas quoted—ironic and irreverent—is very different from the styles of Wordsworth, Blake, and Clare, who strove for a "natural", straightforward, non-ironic diction in their poetry.

 

Passage adapted from Don Juan by George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1819)

Example Question #20 : Literary Analysis

Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing, heavenly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,

In the beginning, how the Heavens and Earth

Rose out of Chaos: or if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd

Fast by the oracle of God: I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar

Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

 

(John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I.)

What is the main verb in the first ten lines of the excerpt above?

Possible Answers:

Sing

Restore

Inspire

Rose

Brought

Correct answer:

Sing

Explanation:

The imperative "sing" (line 6) is the dominant verb of the first clause of the passage, which the narrating voice directs at the clause's understood subject, the "Muse." The other verbs listed as options appear within subordinate clauses and do not govern the entire ten-line section.

 

Adapted from Paradise Lost: A Poem, in Twelve Books (London: J. & H. Richter, 1794): 1-2 by John Milton

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