AP English Literature : Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #5 : Other Content Questions

Adapted from Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)

"Well!" blustered Mr. Bounderby, "what’s the matter? What is young Thomas in the dumps about?"

He spoke of young Thomas, but he looked at Louisa.

"We were peeping at the circus," muttered Louisa, haughtily, without lifting up her eyes, "and father caught us."

"And, Mrs. Gradgrind," said her husband in a lofty manner, "I should as soon have expected to find my children reading poetry."

"Dear me," whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind. "How can you, Louisa and Thomas! I wonder at you. I declare you’re enough to make one regret ever having had a family at all. I have a great mind to say I wish I hadn’t. Then what would you have done, I should like to know?"

Mr. Gradgrind did not seem favorably impressed by these cogent remarks. He frowned impatiently.

"As if, with my head in its present throbbing state, you couldn’t go and look at the shells and minerals and things provided for you, instead of circuses!" said Mrs. Gradgrind. "You know, as well as I do, no young people have circus masters, or keep circuses in cabinets, or attend lectures about circuses. What can you possibly want to know of circuses then? I am sure you have enough to do, if that’s what you want. With my head in its present state, I couldn’t remember the mere names of half the facts you have got to attend to."

"That’s the reason!" pouted Louisa.

"Don’t tell me that’s the reason, because it can’t be nothing of the sort," said Mrs. Gradgrind. "Go and be somethingological directly." Mrs. Gradgrind was not a scientific character, and usually dismissed her children to their studies with this general injunction to choose their pursuit.

In truth, Mrs. Gradgrind’s stock of facts in general was woefully defective, but Mr. Gradgrind, in raising her to her high matrimonial position, had been influenced by two reasons. Firstly, she was most satisfactory as a question of figures, and, secondly, she had "no nonsense" about her. By nonsense he meant fancy, and truly it is probable she was as free from any alloy of that nature as any human being not arrived at the perfection of an absolute idiot ever was.

The simple circumstance of being left alone with her husband and Mr. Bounderby was sufficient to stun this admirable lady again without collision between herself and any other fact. So, she once more died away, and nobody minded her.

"Bounderby," said Mr. Gradgrind, drawing a chair to the fireside, "you are always so interested in my young people—particularly in Louisa—that I make no apology for saying to you, I am very much vexed by this discovery. I have systematically devoted myself (as you know) to the education of the reason of my family. The reason is (as you know) the only faculty to which education should be addressed. And yet, Bounderby, it would appear from this unexpected circumstance of today, though in itself a trifling one, as if something had crept into Thomas’s and Louisa’s minds which is—or rather, which is not—I don’t know that I can express myself better than by saying—which has never been intended to be developed, and in which their reason has no part."

In the eyes of Mr. Gradgrind, what is the real danger of what happened to his children?

Possible Answers:

They might have had their imaginations stimulated.

They might have seen something scandalous during the outing.

They will likely ask for more expensive outings in the future.

They might have associated with unintelligent yokels.

They have forgotten to do their lessons.

Correct answer:

They might have had their imaginations stimulated.

Explanation:

The key part of the passage is found in Mr. Gradgrind's words, "And yet, Bounderby, it would appear from this unexpected circumstance of today, though in itself a trifling one, as if something had crept into Thomas’s and Louisa’s minds which is—or rather, which is not—I don’t know that I can express myself better than by saying—which has never been intended to be developed, and in which their reason has no part."

Mr. Gradgrind is afraid that they might have experienced something that would make them have something in their minds that "has never been intended to be developed, and in which their reason has no part." This thing—"creeping" into the mind—is opposed to reason, as is indicated by the end of the sentence. The implication is that it is something of imagination or creativity—or at least something that Gradgrind did not want them to experience or know.

Example Question #2 : Theme: Prose

Adapted from "The Book of the Grotesque" in Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (1919)

In his bed the writer rolled over on his side and lay quite still. For years he had been beset with notions concerning his heart. He was a hard smoker and his heart fluttered. The idea had got into his mind that he would some time die unexpectedly and always when he got into bed he thought of that. It did not alarm him. The effect in fact was quite a special thing and not easily explained. It made him more alive, there in bed, than at any other time. Perfectly still he lay and his body was old and not of much use any more, but something inside him was altogether young. He was like a pregnant woman, only that the thing inside him was not a baby but a youth. No, it wasn’t a youth, it was a woman, young, and wearing a coat of mail like a knight. It is absurd, you see, to try to tell what was inside the old writer as he lay on his high bed and listened to the fluttering of his heart. The thing to get at is what the writer, or the young thing within the writer, was thinking about.

. . .

In the bed the writer had a dream that was not a dream. As he grew somewhat sleepy but was still conscious, figures began to appear before his eyes. He imagined the young indescribable thing within himself was driving a long procession of figures before his eyes.

You see the interest in all this lies in the figures that went before the eyes of the writer. They were all grotesques. All of the men and women the writer had ever known had become grotesques.

The grotesques were not all horrible. Some were amusing, some almost beautiful, and one, a woman all drawn out of shape, hurt the old man by her grotesqueness. When she passed he made a noise like a small dog whimpering. Had you come into the room you might have supposed the old man had unpleasant dreams or perhaps indigestion.

For an hour the procession of grotesques passed before the eyes of the old man, and then, although it was a painful thing to do, he crept out of bed and began to write. Some one of the grotesques had made a deep impression on his mind and he wanted to describe it.

At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called “The Book of the Grotesque.” It was never published, but I saw it once and it made an indelible impression on my mind. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before. The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this:

That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.

The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.

And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

Which of the following statements is accurate according to the ideas expressed in "The Book of the Grotesque"?

Possible Answers:

Mankind created many truths, and these truths are immutable.

Truth exists as a single universal concept, and it is immutable.

Truth exists, but it is a corrupting force, and when a person attempts to understand it it will make them crazy.

Mankind created many truths, but when a person holds one truth above all others, that truth becomes false.

There are many truths, and a person must choose which truth to live by.

Correct answer:

Mankind created many truths, but when a person holds one truth above all others, that truth becomes false.

Explanation:

It is stated in paragraph seven that there are multiple truths, and that these truths were created by man. In the last paragraph, it is explained how people become grotesques when they choose one truth above all others, and so "the truth he embraced became a falsehood."

Example Question #241 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from “The Habit of Perfection” in Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1919)

 

Elected silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorlèd ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be

The music that I care to hear.

 

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:

It is the shut, the curfew sent

From there where all surrenders come

Which only makes you eloquent.

 

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark

And find the uncreated light:

This ruck and reel which you remark

Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

 

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,

Desire not to be rinsed with wine:

The can must be so sweet, the crust

So fresh that come in fasts divine!

 

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend

Upon the stir and keep of pride,

What relish shall the censers send

Along the sanctuary side!

 

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet

That want the yield of plushy sward,

But you shall walk the golden street

And you unhouse and house the Lord.

 

And, Poverty, be thou the bride

And now the marriage feast begun,

And lily-colored clothes provide

Your spouse not labored-at nor spun.

What is the primary source of images used in this poem?

Possible Answers:

The passions of human life

The desire for many lustful things

The mystical lands of a place full of incense and golden streets

The human senses

The general human condition

Correct answer:

The human senses

Explanation:

For the most part, this poem's stanzas all use the human senses as their main images: the eyes, palate (sense of taste), nostrils, and so forth. Even the "lips", making sounds, express a kind of sensuality even if not with regard to receiving "sense data."

Example Question #241 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning, ln.60-119 (1853)

I can do with my pencil what I know, 
What I see, what at bottom of my heart 
I wish for, if I ever wish so deep— 
Do easily, too—when I say, perfectly, 
I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge, 
Who listened to the Legate's talk last week, 
And just as much they used to say in France. 
At any rate 'tis easy, all of it! 
No sketches first, no studies, that's long past: 
I do what many dream of, all their lives,
—Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do, 
And fail in doing. I could count twenty such 
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town, 
Who strive—you don't know how the others strive 
To paint a little thing like that you smeared 
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,— 
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says, 
(I know his name, no matter)—so much less! 
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged. 
There burns a truer light of God in them, 
In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain, 
Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt 
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine. 
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know, 
Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me, 
Enter and take their place there sure enough, 
Though they come back and cannot tell the world. 
My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here.
The sudden blood of these men! at a word— 
Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too. 
I, painting from myself and to myself, 
Know what I do, am unmoved by men's blame 
Or their praise either. Somebody remarks 
Morello's outline there is wrongly traced, 
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else, 
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that? 
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care? 
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey, 
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse! 
I know both what I want and what might gain, 
And yet how profitless to know, to sigh 
"Had I been two, another and myself, 
"Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt. 
Yonder's a work now, of that famous youth 
The Urbinate who died five years ago. 
('Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.) 
Well, I can fancy how he did it all, 
Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see, 
Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, 
Above and through his art—for it gives way; 
That arm is wrongly put—and there again— 
A fault to pardon in the drawing's lines, 
Its body, so to speak: its soul is right, 
He means right—that, a child may understand. 
Still, what an arm! and I could alter it: 
But all the play, the insight and the stretch— 
Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out? 
Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul, 
We might have risen to Rafael, I and you!

Which of the following best describes the poem's narrator?

Possible Answers:

A nobleman deciding on an artist to commission a portrait from 

An art student fantasizing about his future

An artist describing the source of his inspiration

A master painter discussing his many successes

A painter lamenting his artistic failures

Correct answer:

A painter lamenting his artistic failures

Explanation:

The narrator, while clearly an artist of great talent and technical achievement, mentions repeatedly his disappointment with his own lack of artistic inspiration as compared to lesser artists.

Example Question #501 : Ap English Literature And Composition

Adapted from Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning, ln.60-119 (1853)

I can do with my pencil what I know, 
What I see, what at bottom of my heart 
I wish for, if I ever wish so deep— 
Do easily, too—when I say, perfectly, 
I do not boast, perhaps: yourself are judge, 
Who listened to the Legate's talk last week, 
And just as much they used to say in France. 
At any rate 'tis easy, all of it! 
No sketches first, no studies, that's long past: 
I do what many dream of, all their lives,
—Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do, 
And fail in doing. I could count twenty such 
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town, 
Who strive—you don't know how the others strive 
To paint a little thing like that you smeared 
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,— 
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says, 
(I know his name, no matter)—so much less! 
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged. 
There burns a truer light of God in them, 
In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain, 
Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt 
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine. 
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know, 
Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me, 
Enter and take their place there sure enough, 
Though they come back and cannot tell the world. 
My works are nearer heaven, but I sit here.
The sudden blood of these men! at a word— 
Praise them, it boils, or blame them, it boils too. 
I, painting from myself and to myself, 
Know what I do, am unmoved by men's blame 
Or their praise either. Somebody remarks 
Morello's outline there is wrongly traced, 
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else, 
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that? 
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care? 
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
Or what's a heaven for? All is silver-grey, 
Placid and perfect with my art: the worse! 
I know both what I want and what might gain, 
And yet how profitless to know, to sigh 
"Had I been two, another and myself, 
"Our head would have o'erlooked the world!" No doubt. 
Yonder's a work now, of that famous youth 
The Urbinate who died five years ago. 
('Tis copied, George Vasari sent it me.) 
Well, I can fancy how he did it all, 
Pouring his soul, with kings and popes to see, 
Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, 
Above and through his art—for it gives way; 
That arm is wrongly put—and there again— 
A fault to pardon in the drawing's lines, 
Its body, so to speak: its soul is right, 
He means right—that, a child may understand. 
Still, what an arm! and I could alter it: 
But all the play, the insight and the stretch— 
Out of me, out of me! And wherefore out? 
Had you enjoined them on me, given me soul, 
We might have risen to Rafael, I and you!

In context, the underlined and bolded lines suggest which of the following?

Possible Answers:

The narrator believes that he should be paid better for his work. 

The narrator is dissatisfied with his work despite its technical perfection.

The "arm" he mentions later in the poem is too short and he is disappointed in the painter's work. 

The narrator believes that his competitors don't have enough ambition.

The narrator's religious beliefs have stood in the way of his artistic expression. 

Correct answer:

The narrator is dissatisfied with his work despite its technical perfection.

Explanation:

The narrator has easily achieved what other painters work for their whole lives, yet he recognizes that settling for art that is "placid and perfect" is limiting and ultimately a source of failure. He must "reach" for what is beyond his "grasp" if he hopes to be a great artist. 

Example Question #502 : Ap English Literature And Composition

Adapted from Howard's End by E.M. Forster (1910)

We are not concerned with the very poor. They are unthinkable, and only to be approached by the statistician or the poet. This story deals with gentlefolk, or with those who are obliged to pretend that they are gentlefolk.

The boy, Leonard Bast, stood at the extreme verge of gentility. He was not in the abyss, but he could see it, and at times people whom he knew had dropped in, and counted no more. He knew that he was poor, and would admit it: he would have died sooner than confess any inferiority to the rich. This may be splendid of him. But he was inferior to most rich people, there is not the least doubt of it. He was not as courteous as the average rich man, nor as intelligent, nor as healthy, nor as lovable. His mind and his body had been alike underfed, because he was poor, and
because he was modern they were always craving better food. Had he lived some centuries ago, in the brightly coloured civilizations of the past, he would have had a definite status, his rank and his income would have corresponded. But in his day the angel of Democracy had arisen, enshadowing the classes with leathern wings, and proclaiming, "All men are equal--all men, that is to say,
who possess umbrellas," and so he was obliged to assert gentility, lest he slipped into the abyss where nothing counts, and the statements of Democracy are inaudible.

As he walked away from Wickham Place, his first care was to prove that he was as good as the Miss Schlegels. Obscurely wounded in his pride, he tried to wound them in return. They were probably not ladies. Would real ladies have asked him to tea? They were certainly ill-natured and cold. At each step his feeling of superiority increased. Would a real lady have talked about stealing an umbrella? Perhaps they were thieves after all, and if he had gone into the house they could have clapped a chloroformed handkerchief over his face. He walked on complacently as far as the Houses of Parliament. There an empty stomach asserted itself, and told him he was a fool.

"Evening, Mr. Bast."

"Evening, Mr. Dealtry."

"Nice evening."

"Evening."

Mr. Dealtry, a fellow clerk, passed on, and Leonard stood wondering whether he would take the tram as far as a penny would take him, or whether he would walk. He decided to walk--it is no good giving in, and he had spent money enough at Queen's Hall--and he walked over Westminster Bridge, in front of St. Thomas's Hospital, and through the immense tunnel that passes under the South-Western main line at Vauxhall. In the tunnel he paused and listened to the roar of the trains. A sharp pain darted through his head, and he was conscious of the exact form of his eye sockets. He pushed on for another mile, and did not slacken speed until he stood at the entrance of a road called Camelia Road, which was at present his home.

Here he stopped again, and glanced suspiciously to right and left, like a rabbit that is going to bolt into its hole. A block of flats, constructed with extreme cheapness, towered on either hand. Farther down the road two more blocks were being built, and beyond these an old house was being demolished to accommodate another pair. It was the kind of scene that may be observed all over London, whatever the locality--bricks and mortar rising and falling with the restlessness of the water in a fountain, as the city receives more and more men upon her soil. Camelia Road would soon stand out like a fortress, and command, for a little, an extensive view. Only for a little. Plans were out for the erection of flats in Magnolia Road also. And again a few years, and all the flats in either road might be pulled down, and new buildings, of a vastness at present unimaginable, might arise where they had fallen.

The narrator's mention of "the angel of Democracy" in the second paragraph serves to do what?

Possible Answers:

Ironically point out the disconnect between the political ideals of Edwardian England and its economic realities

Remind the reader of the optimism inherent in the political system of democracy

Make a connection between the political and religious ideals of Edwardian England

Showcase the social benefits brought about by democracy

Make Leonard Bast appear ridiculous to the reader

Correct answer:

Ironically point out the disconnect between the political ideals of Edwardian England and its economic realities

Explanation:

The narrator's tongue-in-cheek tone ("all men, that is to say, who possess umbrellas") and the repeated references to Leonard Bast's poverty and self-conscious gentility support an ironic reading.

Example Question #121 : Passage Content

Adapted from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in Leaves of Grass (1855)

1

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.



2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.
 

3

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams . . .

Which of the following do we NOT know about the speaker's immediate setting?

Possible Answers:

It is after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

It is summer.

The speaker is in New York.

Shipping ports are in sight.

The sun is out.

Correct answer:

It is summer.

Explanation:

Although the speaker refers to "the reflection of the summer sky in the water" he does so reflectively and immediately after noting "the Twelfth-month [i.e. December] sea-gulls . . . edging toward the south," suggesting winter. In fact, the only definite information we get about the speaker's immediate setting is in the first stanza, but most of the information provided is more permanent and can be safely extended to his present setting.

Example Question #1 : Support And Evidence

Adapted from "The Mouse’s Petition" in Poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld (1773)


Found in the trap where he had been confined all night by Dr. Priestley, for the sake of making experiments with different kinds of air

“To spare the humbled, and to tame in war the proud.” - Virgil

 

OH! hear a pensive captive's prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the prisoner's cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,

Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,

Which brings impending fate.

If e'er thy breast with freedom glow'd,
And spurn'd a tyrant's chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain.

Oh! do not stain with guiltless blood
Thy hospitable hearth;
Nor triumph that thy wiles betray'd
A prize so little worth.

The scatter'd gleanings of a feast
My scanty meals supply;
But if thine unrelenting heart
That slender boon deny,

The cheerful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given;
Let nature's commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.

The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.

If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts thro' matter's varying forms,
In every form the same,

Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother's soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.

Or, if this transient gleam of day
Be all of life we share,
Let pity plead within thy breast,
That little all to spare.

So may thy hospitable board
With health and peace be crown'd;
And every charm of heartfelt ease
Beneath thy roof be found.

So when unseen destruction lurks,
Which men like mice may share,
May some kind angel clear thy path,
And break the hidden snare.

Which of the following issues is most relevant to the poem's overall argument?

Possible Answers:

The minimum standard of ethical care and consideration owed to all sentient beings

The necessity of scientific experimentation for the greater good of humanity

The minimum standard of ethical care and consideration owed to all prisoners of war and religious dissenters

The necessity of hospitality and generosity in an increasingly fragmented and dangerous world

The minimum standard of ethical care and consideration owed to all animal companions and work animals

Correct answer:

The minimum standard of ethical care and consideration owed to all sentient beings

Explanation:

This poem discusses and advocates for a minimum standard of ethical care and consideration for all sentient beings. This standard of care extends to basic freedoms of movement and access to "the common gifts of heaven" by all of "nature's commoners." The poem also asserts the consideration and importance of all "pensive," conscious beings, not just humans.

While the poem is, by virtue of being concerned with all sentient beings, concerned with the treatment of animal companions and work animals, it also extends this concern to all sentient creatures, even a random "worm" which one might "crush" while walking, the worm in that example being neither a work animal nor a companion, but still a creature worthy of consideration. 

While hospitality and generosity are a key aspect of the ethical care and consideration advocated in this poem, the reasoning behind this lies in the inherent rights of sentient creatures, not an increasingly dangerous and fractured world. 

Prisoners of war and religious dissenters are not specifically mentioned.

Example Question #11 : Other Content Questions

Adapted from "On the Wing" in The Prince's Progress and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti (1866)

Once in a dream (for once I dreamed of you) 
      We stood together in an open field; 
      Above our heads two swift-winged pigeons wheeled, 
Sporting at ease and courting full in view. 
      When loftier still a broadening darkness flew, 
      Down-swooping, and a ravenous hawk revealed; 
      Too weak to fight, too fond to fly, they yield; 
So farewell life and love and pleasures new. 
Then, as their plumes fell fluttering to the ground, 
      Their snow-white plumage flecked with crimson drops, 
            I wept, and thought I turned towards you to weep: 
      But you were gone; while rustling hedgerow tops 
Bent in a wind which bore to me a sound 
      Of far-off piteous bleat of lambs and sheep.

What is the prevailing mood of this poem?

Possible Answers:

Jocundity

Despair

Irony

Melancholy

Ebullience

Correct answer:

Melancholy

Explanation:

The theme of lost love is sad (melancholy) and is supported by sad imagery, such as the death of the pair of pigeons, "their plumes [falling] fluttering to the ground," and "flecked with crimson drops" and the "far-off piteous bleat of lambs and sheep."

Example Question #511 : Ap English Literature And Composition

Adapted from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (1894)

Mrs. Cheveley: Except their husbands. That is the one thing the modern woman never understands.

Lady Markby: And a very good thing too, dear, I dare say. It might break up many a happy home if they did. Not yours, I need hardly say, Gertrude. You have married a pattern husband. I wish I could say as much for myself. But since Sir John has taken to attending the debates regularly, which he never used to do in the good old days, his language has become quite impossible. He always seems to think that he is addressing the House, and consequently whenever he discusses the state of the agricultural laborer, or the Welsh Church, or something quite improper of that kind, I am obliged to send all the servants out of the room. It is not pleasant to see one’s own butler, who has been with one for twenty-three years, actually blushing at the side-board, and the footmen making contortions in corners like persons in circuses. I assure you my life will be quite ruined unless they send John at once to the Upper House. He won’t take any interest in politics then, will he? The House of Lords is so sensible. An assembly of gentlemen. But in his present state, Sir John is really a great trial. Why, this morning before breakfast was half over, he stood up on the hearthrug, put his hands in his pockets, and appealed to the country at the top of his voice. I left the table as soon as I had my second cup of tea, I need hardly say. But his violent language could be heard all over the house! I trust, Gertrude, that Sir Robert is not like that?

Lady Chiltern: But I am very much interested in politics, Lady Markby. I love to hear Robert talk about them.

Lady Markby: Well, I hope he is not as devoted to Blue Books as Sir John is. I don’t think they can be quite improving reading for any one.

Mrs. Cheveley: [Languidly.] I have never read a Blue Book. I prefer books . . . in yellow covers.

Lady Markby: [Genially unconscious.] Yellow is a gayer color, is it not? I used to wear yellow a good deal in my early days, and would do so now if Sir John was not so painfully personal in his observations, and a man on the question of dress is always ridiculous, is he not?

Mrs. Cheveley: Oh, no! I think men are the only authorities on dress.

Lady Markby: Really? One wouldn’t say so from the sort of hats they wear? Would one?

[The butler enters, followed by the footman. Tea is set on a small table close to Lady Chiltern.]

Lady Chiltern: May I give you some tea, Mrs. Cheveley?

Mrs. Cheveley: Thanks. [The butler hands Mrs. Cheveley a cup of tea on a salver.]

Lady Chiltern: Some tea, Lady Markby?

Lady Markby: No thanks, dear. [The servants go out.] The fact is, I have promised to go round for ten minutes to see poor Lady Brancaster, who is in very great trouble. Her daughter, quite a well-brought-up girl, too, has actually become engaged to be married to a curate in Shropshire. It is very sad, very sad indeed. I can’t understand this modern mania for curates. In my time we girls saw them, of course, running about the place like rabbits. But we never took any notice of them, I need hardly say. But I am told that nowadays country society is quite honeycombed with them. I think it most irreligious. And then the eldest son has quarreled with his father, and it is said that when they meet at the club Lord Brancaster always hides himself behind the money article in The Times. However, I believe that is quite a common occurrence nowadays and that they have to take in extra copies of The Times at all the clubs in St. James’s Street; there are so many sons who won’t have anything to do with their fathers, and so many fathers who won’t speak to their sons. I think myself, it is very much to be regretted.

Mrs. Cheveley: So do I. Fathers have so much to learn from their sons nowadays.

Lady Markby: Really, dear? What? 

Mrs. Cheveley: The art of living. The only really Fine Art we have produced in modern times.

Which of the following subjects is NOT mentioned in the women's conversation in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The romantic preferences of young women

The value of having numerous friends in different social circles

Lady Markby's husband's interest in politics

Who gets to determine what is fashionable

The relationship between fathers and sons

Correct answer:

The value of having numerous friends in different social circles

Explanation:

Of the provided answer choices, only "The value of having numerous friends in different social circles" is not discussed by the women in the passage. Lady Markby discusses her husband's interest in politics throughout the second paragraph; the ladies discuss who gets to determine what is fashionable when Mrs. Cheveley remarks "I think men are the only authorities on dress" and Lady Markby disagrees with her; and the romantic preferences of young women (for curates) and the relationship between fathers and sons (as arguing to the point of not talking with one another) are both discussed near the end of the passage.

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