SAT II Literature : Inferences: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Inferences

Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ’mongst vulgars mayst thou roam.
In critics' hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.

The underlined lines "I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet, / Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet" most likely refers to what?

Possible Answers:

The poet revising the subject matter of the poems

The poet revising the form of the poems

The poet revising the rhyme of the poems

None of the other answers is correct

The poet revising the meter of the poems

Correct answer:

The poet revising the meter of the poems


The word "feet" is the clue here: the meter of poems is measured in metrical feet, different combinations of stressed and unstressed syllables, and here, Bradstreet is using the image of stretching the "joints" of her "offspring" to even up the meter.

Passage adapted from "The Author to Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet (1678)

Example Question #12 : Inferences

Passage adapted from "To Some Ladies" (1817) by John Keats

What though while the wonders of nature exploring,
  I cannot your light, mazy footsteps attend;
Nor listen to accents, that almost adoring,
  Bless Cynthia's face, the enthusiast's friend:

(5) Yet over the steep, whence the mountain stream rushes,
  With you, kindest friends, in idea I rove;
Mark the clear tumbling crystal, its passionate gushes,
  Its spray that the wild flower kindly bedews.

Why linger you so, the wild labyrinth strolling?
 (10) Why breathless, unable your bliss to declare?
Ah! you list to the nightingale's tender condoling,
  Responsive to sylphs, in the moon beamy air.

'Tis morn, and the flowers with dew are yet drooping,
  I see you are treading the verge of the sea:
(15) And now! ah, I see it—you just now are stooping
  To pick up the keep-sake intended for me.

If a cherub, on pinions of silver descending,
  Had brought me a gem from the fret-work of heaven;
And smiles, with his star-cheering voice sweetly blending,
  (20) The blessings of Tighe had melodiously given;

It had not created a warmer emotion
  Than the present, fair nymphs, I was blest with from you,
Than the shell, from the bright golden sands of the ocean
  Which the emerald waves at your feet gladly threw.

(25) For, indeed, 'tis a sweet and peculiar pleasure,
  (And blissful is he who such happiness finds,)
To possess but a span of the hour of leisure,
  In elegant, pure, and aerial minds.

The unannounced intention of the speaker is to __________.

Possible Answers:

further his relationship with nature

express his love towards an unnamed woman

collect valuable seashells from the ocean

pursue new romantic partners in the face of rejection

explore new wilderness territories

Correct answer:

express his love towards an unnamed woman


While the speaker does not explicitly speak about his intentions, it can be inferred from the romantic language that he feels deeply for the unnamed person of interest (we assume a woman, though it is not stated.) Given the lack of support for the other answers in the passage, the audience can best infer his intention is to further this relationship.

Example Question #13 : Inferences

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree

    Toward heaven still,

    And there's a barrel that I didn't fill

    Beside it, and there may be two or three

    Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.

    But I am done with apple-picking now.

    Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

    The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

In addition to apple picking, of what might this poem be a description?

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



The tone of the poem is somber, which rules out love and joy. Based on the mention of “heaven,” “drowsing off, and “winter sleep,” it’s safe to assume that this poem may be discussing death.

Passage adapted from Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking.” North of Boston. (1915)

Example Question #14 : Inferences

What dire offence from amorous causes springs,

What mighty contests rise from trivial things,

I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:

This, even Belinda may vouchsafe to view:

Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,

If She inspire, and He approve my lays.


… Sol thro’ white curtains shot a tim’rous ray,        

And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day.       

Now lapdogs give themselves the rousing shake,      

And sleepless lovers just at twelve awake:   

Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock’d the ground,

And the press’d watch return’d a silver sound.        

Belinda still her downy pillow prest,

Her guardian Sylph prolong’d the balmy rest.

Based on context, what subject will this poem likely treat?

Possible Answers:

Gods and goddesses





Correct answer:



Based on the lighthearted tone of the poem, we can immediately rule out death and war as its main subjects. From the opening mention of “amorous causes” to the second stanza’s reference to “sleepless” lovers, we can deduce that the best choice is love.

Passage adapted from The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope (1712)

Example Question #15 : Inferences

In pious times, e’r Priest-craft did begin,

Before Polygamy was made a Sin;

When Man on many multipli’d his kind,

E’r one to one was cursedly confin’d,

When Nature prompted and no Law deni’d   (5)      

Promiscuous Use of Concubine and Bride;

Then Israel’s Monarch, after Heavens own heart,

His vigorous warmth did, variously, impart

To Wives and Slaves: And, wide as his Command,

Scatter’d his Maker’s Image through the Land.    (10)


Based on context, what does the author mean by “Scatter’d his Maker’s Image through the Land” (line 10)?

Possible Answers:

The king fathered many children

The king released his many wives and slaves

The king was cursed by a wife

God won over many converts from the king’s religion

The king converted many followers to his religion

Correct answer:

The king fathered many children


There are several clues in this passage that can help us interpret line 10. Line 3, “When Man on many multipli’d his kind,” and line 8, “vigorous warmth,” both imply that the king is scattering his image by having many children with his wives and slaves. The other choices here contain words and concepts mentioned in the passage, but none of them reach the correct meaning of line 10.

Passage adapted from “Absalom and Achitophel,” by John Dryden (1681)

Example Question #16 : Inferences

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.


Line 5 implies that the setting of the poem is _________________.

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



Based on the reference to a road leading to the famous castle “Camelot,” we can assume that the poem is set in the same fantastical or mythical world of Arthurian legend. There is nothing to indicate that the setting is capricious (fickle), austere (harsh and ascetic), or religious. The setting itself is also not allegorical, although Arthurian legend does contain some allegories.

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

Example Question #17 : Inferences

… Sir, ’twas not

Her husband’s presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek… She had

A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,

Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er    (5)

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.

Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,

The dropping of the daylight in the West,

The bough of cherries some officious fool

Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule    (10)

She rode with round the terrace—all and each

Would draw from her alike the approving speech,

Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked

Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked

My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name    (15)

With anybody’s gift.


Based on what the speaker says, what is the Duchess’s flaw?

Possible Answers:

She does not have discriminating tastes 

She is coy and flirtatious with servants

She has been married several times before

She plays favorites

She is a glutton

Correct answer:

She does not have discriminating tastes 


In lines 3-6, we see the answer to this question: “She had / A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad, / Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er  / She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” In other words, the Duchess is too fond of everything; her taste is not particular.

Passage adapted from Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (1842) 

Example Question #18 : Inferences

Adapted from "Old Man Traveling" by William Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798 ed.)

          The little hedge-row birds,
That peck along the road, regard him not.
He travels on, and in his face, his step,
His gait, is one expression; every limb,
His look and bending figure, all bespeak
A man who does not move with pain, but moves
With thought—He is insensibly subdued
To settled quiet: he is one by whom
All effort seems forgotten, one to whom
Long patience has such mild composure given,
That patience now doth seem a thing, of which
He hath no need. He is by nature led
To peace so perfect, that the young behold
With envy, what the old man hardly feels.
—I asked him whither he was bound, and what
The object of his journey; he replied
"Sir! I am going many miles to take
"A last leave of my son, a mariner,
"Who from a sea-fight has been brought to Falmouth,
And there is dying in an hospital."

What can be inferred from the underlined text?

Possible Answers:

Walking as a primary mode of transport is contemporary in the poem

Both men are traveling in opposite directions

The man is extremely poor

The speaker is of a lower socioeconomic class than the man

The speaker is unused to engaging fellow travelers on the road but here makes an exception

Correct answer:

Walking as a primary mode of transport is contemporary in the poem


Of the five possible answers, the only one which we can say for certainty is that walking is “a contemporary mode of transport.” We can infer that there is no usage of cars, meaning that the poem is set in the past. As the man says he is traveling “many miles” and we know he is on foot from the rest of the poem, we can safely say that walking is “of the time” or “contemporary.” We could say the man is poor, but to infer that, we would have to have more details. Likewise, we could make a judgment on the man's class if more information was given.

Example Question #50 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from Life and Remains of John Clare "The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"  by John Clare (1872, ed. J. L. Cherry)

I am! Yet what I am who cares, or knows?
My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.
And yet I am—I live—though I am toss'd

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise.
Into the living sea of waking dream,
Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem
And all that's dear. Even those I loved the best
Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod
For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.

What is implied by the underlined line?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers is correct

There are no unexplored places

The author is an adventurer

The narrator enjoys plays

The author of this poem feels inspired by plays

Correct answer:

None of the other answers is correct


We might be able to say “the author feels imprisoned” or “there are no unexplored places” if more information was given, but firstly, we must establish that there is a distinction between the author and the voice given in the poem, which should be identified as the “narrator.” We must not confuse “scene” for that of a play in this instance, as it is clear from the last line that the author means an instance rather than a dramatic scene. We also have no basis to call the author an adventurer. Therefore, we must say that none of these are correct answers.

Example Question #19 : Inferences

1 Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
2 Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
3 Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
4 The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
5 Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
6 And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
7 In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
8 Sing in their high and lonely melody.
9 Come near, that no more blinded by man's fate,
10 I find under the boughs of love and hate,
11 In all poor foolish things that live a day,
12 Eternal beauty wandering on her way.
13 Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still
14 A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
15 Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
16 The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
17 The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
18 And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
19 But seek alone to hear the strange things said
20 By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
21 And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
22 Come near; I would, before my time to go,
23 Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
24 Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.

It can be inferred that Cuchulain, the Druid, Fergus, and Eire are __________________.

Possible Answers:

tenders of the garden

the speaker's ancestors

people somehow connected to the "ancient ways"

friends of the speaker

fellow poets of the author's

Correct answer:

people somehow connected to the "ancient ways"


All four of these people are identified with the "ancient ways" mentioned in lines 2 and 23. The speaker says openly that he wants to sing of the "ancient ways." He also identifies these people as specific examples of what he wants to sing about. Therefore, it is possible to infer that these people who are named are somehow connected to or involved with the "ancient ways" that are mentioned. Indeed, they are figures from Old Irish legend and poetry, which is what the author goes on to write about after this poem.

Passage adapted from "To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time" by William Butler Yeats (1893)

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