SAT II Literature : Form, Structure, Grammar, and Syntax

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #7 : Structure And Form: Poetry

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, (5)

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    (10)

I ran! And loosened Peninsulas

Have not undergone a more triumphant hubbub…

What meter do lines 2 and 6 display?

Possible Answers:

Iambic pentameter

Alexandrines

Spondaic tetrameter

Villanelles

Dithyrambic hexameter

Correct answer:

Alexandrines

Explanation:

The lines in question contain 12 syllables with no particular pattern of unstressed or stressed syllables. This 12-syllable meter is known as alexandrines. (In the original French version of the poem, the entire work is written in alexandrines.)

Passage adapted from Arthur Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat,” (1920)

Example Question #8 : Structure And Form: Poetry

'Hard by yon Wood, now frowning as in Scorn, 

'Mutt'ring his wayward Fancies he wou'd rove, 

'Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn, 

'Or craz'd with Care, or cross'd in hopeless Love. 

    'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd Hill,   (5)

'Along the Heath, and near his fav'rite Tree; 

'Another came; nor yet beside the Rill, 

'Nor up the Lawn, nor at the Wood was he. 

    'The next with Dirges due in sad Array 

'Slow thro' the Church-way Path we saw him born.  (10)

'Approach and read (for thou canst read) the Lay, 

'Grav'd on the Stone beneath yon aged Thorn.

(1751)

In what meter is this passage written?

Possible Answers:

Heroic couplets

Trochaic pentameter

Free verse

Iambic pentameter

Dactylic hexameter

Correct answer:

Iambic pentameter

Explanation:

Be careful not to mistake rhymed iambic pentameter in ABAB form for heroic couplets (AABB form). This passage is in rhymed iambic pentameter in an alternating rhyme scheme.

Excerpt adapted from Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. (1751)

Example Question #9 : Structure And Form: Poetry

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

 

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.(5)

 

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil,

     this air,

Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and

     their parents the same,

I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,

Hoping to cease not till death.

What is this poem’s organizing structure?

Possible Answers:

Free verse

Loose tercets

Feminine rhyme

Slant rhyme

Sprung rhythm

Correct answer:

Sprung rhythm

Explanation:

This poem is not organized by any uniform metrical pattern or specific type of stanza. It also lacks rhyming, although it does have a strong voice and cadence. In the absence of overt organizational schemes, we can classify this passage as an example of free verse.

Passage adapted from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass (1855).

Example Question #10 : Structure And Form: Poetry

Midway upon the journey of our life

  I found myself within a forest dark,

  For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say

  What was this forest savage, rough, and stern, (5)

  Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;

  But of the good to treat, which there I found,

  Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

How is this poem organized?

Possible Answers:

Quatrains

Tercets

Couplets

Anapests

Spondees

Correct answer:

Tercets

Explanation:

This poem is separated into units of three lines each: tercets. Quatrains are units of four lines, and couplets are units of two lines. An anapest is a poetic foot consisting of two unstressed and one stressed syllables. A spondee is a poetic foot consisting of two stressed syllables.

Passage adapted from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, trans. Charles Eliot Norton (1920)

Example Question #11 : Structure And Form: Poetry

… Come, my friends,

’T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths     (5)   

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

(1842)

What meter is this poem?

Possible Answers:

Heroic verse

Free verse

Blank verse

Quatrains

Concrete poetry

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

Here, we have unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. This is known as blank verse. (Free verse, on the other hand, is both unrhymed and unmetered verse.)

Passage adapted from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (1842)

Example Question #51 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

On either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye,

That clothe the wold and meet the sky;

And thro' the field the road runs by

To many-tower'd Camelot;       (5)

And up and down the people go,

Gazing where the lilies blow

Round an island there below,

The island of Shalott.

(1833)

What is the meter of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Spondaic tetrameter

Iambic tetrameter

None of these

Iambic tetrameter and trochaic tetrameter

Trochaic pentameter

Correct answer:

Iambic tetrameter and trochaic tetrameter

Explanation:

An iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. A trochee is the opposite: a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. This poem alternates between lines of iambs and lines of trochees, but there are generally four pairs of them.

Passage adapted from “The Lady of Shalott,” Poems by Alfred Tennyson (1833).

Example Question #13 : Structure And Form: Poetry

I met a traveller from an antique land

  Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

  Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

  Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

  And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,(5)

  Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

  Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

  The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

  And on the pedestal these words appear:

  "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;(10)

  Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

  Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

  Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

  The lone and level sands stretch far away.

What form is this poem?

Possible Answers:

Villanelle

Ode

Doggerel

Sonnet

Sestina

Correct answer:

Sonnet

Explanation:

This poem is one of Shelley’s most famous sonnets and was in fact written to compete in a sonnet contest. Its telltale 14 lines should be a tipoff (villanelles have 19, for example). Although it doesn’t follow the typical 8-line, then 6-line stanzaic form, and although its rhyme scheme is atypical, none of the other choices fit better than “sonnet.”

Passage adapted from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” (1818)

Example Question #14 : Structure And Form: Poetry

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape    (5)

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?    (10)

This poem is primarily written in which meter?

Possible Answers:

Iambic pentameter

Petrarchan verse

Heroic verse

Dactylic verse

Spondaic pentameter

Correct answer:

Iambic pentameter

Explanation:

In this poem, we see lines containing five pairs of unstressed-stressed syllables: iambic pentameter. Heroic couplets are rhymed (AABB) pairs of iambic pentameter, and Petrarchan describes a type of sonnet rather than a poetic meter. Spondees and dactyls are other metrical feet.

Passage adapted from John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1820)

Example Question #15 : Structure And Form: Poetry

So live, that when thy summons comes to join   

The innumerable caravan, which moves   

To that mysterious realm, where each shall take   

His chamber in the silent halls of death,   

Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,     (5)

Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed   

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,   

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch   

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

(1817)

What is this passage’s primary poetic meter?

Possible Answers:

Spondaic verse

Dramatic verse

Mock heroic

Blank verse

Drop verse

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

Here we have unrhymed lines of mainly iambic pentameter, which is the definition of blank verse. Dramatic and drop verse aren’t real meters. Mock heroic form is the use of rhymed lines of satirical iambic pentameter.

Passage adapted from William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” (1817)

Example Question #16 : Structure And Form: Poetry

So live, that when thy summons comes to join   

The innumerable caravan, which moves   

To that mysterious realm, where each shall take   

His chamber in the silent halls of death,   

Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,     (5)

Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed   

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,   

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch   

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

(1817)

Which of the following lines departs from the fixed poetic meter?

Possible Answers:

Line 4

Line 1

Line 2

Line 5

Line 3

Correct answer:

Line 2

Explanation:

“The innumerable caravan, which moves” is not in iambic pentameter, unlike the rest of these choices. (Iambs, remember, are a pattern of one unstressed and then one stressed syllable.)

Passage adapted from William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” (1817)

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