SAT II Literature : Inferences: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

1 3 Next →

Example Question #21 : Inferences: Poetry

1                  In silent night when rest I took,

2                  For sorrow near I did not look,

3                  I wakened was with thund’ring noise

4                  And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.

5                  That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”

6                  Let no man know is my Desire.

7                  I, starting up, the light did spy,

8                  And to my God my heart did cry

9                  To straighten me in my Distress

10               And not to leave me succourless.

11               Then, coming out, behold a space

12               The flame consume my dwelling place.

13               And when I could no longer look,

14               I blest His name that gave and took,

15               That laid my goods now in the dust.

16               Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.

17               It was his own, it was not mine,

18               Far be it that I should repine;

19               He might of all justly bereft

20               But yet sufficient for us left.

21               When by the ruins oft I past

22               My sorrowing eyes aside did cast

23               And here and there the places spy

24               Where oft I sate and long did lie.

25               Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,

26               There lay that store I counted best.

27               My pleasant things in ashes lie

28               And them behold no more shall I.

29               Under thy roof no guest shall sit,

30               Nor at thy Table eat a bit.

31               No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told

32               Nor things recounted done of old.

33               No Candle e'er shall shine in Thee,

34               Nor bridegroom’s voice e'er heard shall be.

35               In silence ever shalt thou lie,

36               Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.

37               Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,

38               And did thy wealth on earth abide?

39               Didst fix thy hope on mould'ring dust?

40               The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?

41               Raise up thy thoughts above the sky

42               That dunghill mists away may fly.

43               Thou hast a house on high erect

44               Framed by that mighty Architect,

45               With glory richly furnished,

46               Stands permanent though this be fled.

47               It’s purchased and paid for too

48               By Him who hath enough to do.

49               A price so vast as is unknown,

50               Yet by His gift is made thine own;

51               There’s wealth enough, I need no more,

52               Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.

53               The world no longer let me love,

54               My hope and treasure lies above.



What line best shows that the speaker does not blame God for her loss?

Possible Answers:

“Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity”

“Raise up thy thoughts above the sky”

“My hope and treasure lies above”

“I blest His name that gave and took”

“By Him who hath enough to do”

Correct answer:

“I blest His name that gave and took”


While the speaker acknowledges God's role in her loss, the fact that she blesses (or glorify) him for doing so suggests she does not feel angry at God for allowing her possessions to burn.

Passage adapted from Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of our House" (1666)

Example Question #562 : Sat Subject Test In Literature

To the Dead in the Grave-Yard Under My Window
by Adelaide Crapsey (1878 - 1915)

  1. How can you lie so still? All day I watch
  2. And never a blade of all the green sod moves
  3. To show where restlessly you toss and turn,
  4. And fling a desperate arm or draw up knees
  5. Stiffened and aching from their long disuse;
  6. I watch all night and not one ghost comes forth
  7. To take its freedom of the midnight hour.
  8. Oh, have you no rebellion in your bones?
  9. The very worms must scorn you where you lie,
  10. A pallid mouldering acquiescent folk,
  11. Meek habitants of unresented graves.
  12. Why are you there in your straight row on row
  13. Where I must ever see you from my bed
  14. That in your mere dumb presence iterate
  15. The text so weary in my ears: “Lie still
  16. And rest; be patient and lie still and rest.”
  17. I’ll not be patient! I will not lie still!

It can be inferred that the speaker of the poem is __________________.

Possible Answers:


About to give birth




Correct answer:



The speaker is restless and impatient: clearly she is not exhausted. There is no evidence in the text that she is dreaming, or that she is dead. She has been in bed a long time, but there is no mention of childbirth. There is evidence that she is sick: e.g., she is not allowed to get up, she is tired of being told to rest, and she clearly feels some kind of kinship with the dead buried outside her window: as if she may be expecting to join them soon. The correct answer is "sick."

Example Question #563 : Sat Subject Test In Literature

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I 

Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then? 
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly? 
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den? 
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be. 
If ever any beauty I did see, 
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.  

And now good-morrow to our waking souls, 
Which watch not one another out of fear; 
For love, all love of other sights controls, 
And makes one little room an everywhere. 
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, 
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one. 

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, 
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; 
Where can we find two better hemispheres, 
Without sharp north, without declining west? 
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally; 
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I 
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.


Which of the following statements would the speaker most likely agree with? 

Possible Answers:

Love is a drug

Only love can set you free

Love is a battlefield

All you need is love

Love is a losing game

Correct answer:

All you need is love


Throughout the poem, the speaker repeatedly emphasizes true love's completeness. It is "an everywhere," and in it, both partners both possess and contain the world ("each has one and is one"). There are no "better hemispheres" than the two lovers faces. It seems fair to say that Donne's speaker would be likely to agree that, since love can both be and contain the world, it's just about all you need. 

Passage adapted from John Donne's "The Good Morrow" (1633).

Example Question #571 : Sat Subject Test In Literature

 The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding— 
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door. 
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,   
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin. 
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.   
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, 
         His pistol butts a-twinkle, 
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky. 
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard. 
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.   
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, 
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter, 
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair. 
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked 
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.   
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,   
But he loved the landlord’s daughter, 
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter. 
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say— 
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night, 
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; 
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,   
Then look for me by moonlight, 
         Watch for me by moonlight, 
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”  

From the description of the highwayman in the second stanza, it can be inferred that he is ____________________.

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



The second stanza is primarily a description of the highwayman's expensive clothing and dazzling appearance. From this we can infer that he is wealthy enough to impress people with his with his style. The dazzling nature of his appearance is emphasized by the repetition of the words "twinkle" and "jewel." This stanza does hint at violence with the description of weapons, but the primary focus is on the flashy appearance of those weapons, not on their use. There is no evidence in this passage that he is impulsive, unfaithful, or doomed.

Passage adapted from Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman" (1906)

Example Question #572 : Sat Subject Test In Literature

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.

It is reasonable to infer that the author of the poem believes that _______________.

I   Heightened experience is more important than physical beauty
II  The important things in life are easily forgotten if one is not careful
III Intense emotion is worth suffering for

Possible Answers:

I only

I, II, and III

II only

I and III only

I and II only

Correct answer:

I, II, and III


The author argues in stanzas 1 and 3 that it’s better to “follow the hunt” — i.e., live with intensity — even at the cost of youth and beauty. Early exhaustion and old age are legitimate causes of suffering, but it’s worth the pain in order to live passionately. The whole poem can be seen as a warning reminding the reader how easy it is to make the safe choice (sleeping on a golden pillow) and to forget what’s really important in life.

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

1 3 Next →
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors