SAT II Literature : Figurative Language: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #21 : Figurative Language

1. Better to see your cheek grown hollow,
2. Better to see your temple worn,
3. Than to forget to follow, follow,
4. After the sound of a silver horn.

5. Better to bind your brow with willow
6. And follow, follow until you die,
7. Than to sleep with your head on a golden pillow,
8. Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.

9. Better to see your cheek grow sallow
10. And your hair grown gray, so soon, so soon,
11. Than to forget to hallo, hallo,
12. After the milk-white hounds of the moon.

The images in the poem are meant to convey which of the following?

I   Someone who has lost the capacity for intense experience
II  Someone who is imprisoned in an insane asylum
III Someone who revels in passion

Possible Answers:

II and III only

I and III only

I only

II only

III only

Correct answer:

I and III only


The poem’s theme is the value of remaining open to life experience, even at the cost of grief and old age. The author contrasts images of life lived passionately (the moonlit hunt, the silver horn, the brow bound with willow) with images of life lived in unconscious comfort (the golden pillow, the sleeper’s obliviousness to the passing hunt.) We are shown both alternatives: the person who revels in passion and the person who has lost the capacity for intense experience. There is no mention of an insane asylum or of imprisonment.

Passage adapted from Eleanor Wylie's "A Madman's Song" (1921)

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