SAT II Literature : Genre: Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #851 : Sat Subject Test In Literature

1 O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

2 The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,

3 The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

4 While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

5 But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

7 Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead. 


What type of poem is this?

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, the ode, and the eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose. Also, the elegy is typically written in response to the death of a person.

(Passage adapted from "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman, ln. 1-8, 1865)

Example Question #2 : Genre: Eighteenth And Nineteenth Century 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. 


What genre of poem is this?

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



Based on the mournful tone, the narrative content, and the use of words like “Dirges,” we can assume that this is an elegiac poem. An ode is a lyric poem expressing love for someone or something, and a sonnet is generally a 14-line love poem. A villanelle is a 19-line poem that follows specific rules of repeating lines, and a pantoum is a similar poetic form.

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

Example Question #1 : Genre, Style, Tone, Mood, And Other Literary Features

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.


Based on these lines, in what genre is this poem written?

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



The poem is idealizing rural, agrarian life in these lines. This is a classic feature of a pastoral. An elegy is a poem mourning someone’s death. An encomium is a speech that enthusiastically and formally praises someone or something. Bildungsromans are coming-of-age stories (e.g. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) or Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861)).

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

Example Question #4 : Genre: Eighteenth And Nineteenth Century Poetry

1 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: 
5 What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape 
       Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
9 What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 
11 Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, 
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
15 Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
18 Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; 
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 
21 Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
         For ever piping songs for ever new; 
25 More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, 
                For ever panting, and for ever young; 
28 All breathing human passion far above, 
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, 
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 
31 Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? 
35 What little town by river or sea shore, 
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
38 And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
                Why thou art desolate, can e'er return. 
41 O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
45 As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
         When old age shall this generation waste, 
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
48 Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
         "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

This poem contains elements of what genre?

Possible Answers:





Shakespearean sonnet

Correct answer:



This poem contains strong elements of the pastoral genre. Pastoral poetry or literature takes as its subject matter rural life. Shepherds are often the main characters, and the setting is usually the countryside or a forest. In addition, these elements are idealized in pastoral; rural life is presented as being perfect, peaceful, and blissful--never gritty realism, etc.

Passage adapted from John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1819)

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