SAT II Literature : Structure and Form: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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

… 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:

Concrete poetry

Quatrains

Free verse

Heroic verse

Blank verse

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 #11 : Structure And Form: Poetry

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:

Trochaic pentameter

Iambic tetrameter and trochaic tetrameter

Spondaic tetrameter

None of these

Iambic tetrameter

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 #11 : Structure And Form

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:

Sonnet

Villanelle

Doggerel

Ode

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 #11 : 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:

Petrarchan verse

Iambic pentameter

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 #12 : Structure And Form

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

Drop verse

Mock heroic

Blank 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 #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)

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

Possible Answers:

Line 3

Line 2

Line 5

Line 1

Line 4

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)

Example Question #61 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;    (5)

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;   (10)

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

(1886)

What form is this poem?

Possible Answers:

Hymn

Pantoum

Elegy

Sonnet

Villanelle

Correct answer:

Hymn

Explanation:

This poem is what’s known as a homiletic – a hymn- or sermon-like treatment of a topic. This type of poem praises or even exalts that topic in somewhat simple, repetitive language. This is a common approach in Emily Dickinson’s poetry, although it’s now largely considered antiquated.

Passage adapted from Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” (1886)

Example Question #61 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

Adapted from "The Mouse’s Petition" in Poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld (1773)


Found in the trap where he had been confined all night by Dr. Priestley, for the sake of making experiments with different kinds of air

“To spare the humbled, and to tame in war the proud.” - Virgil

 

OH! hear a pensive captive's prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the prisoner's cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,

Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,

Which brings impending fate.

If e'er thy breast with freedom glow'd,
And spurn'd a tyrant's chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain.

Oh! do not stain with guiltless blood
Thy hospitable hearth;
Nor triumph that thy wiles betray'd
A prize so little worth.

The scatter'd gleanings of a feast
My scanty meals supply;
But if thine unrelenting heart
That slender boon deny,

The cheerful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given;
Let nature's commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.

The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.

If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts thro' matter's varying forms,
In every form the same,

Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother's soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.

Or, if this transient gleam of day
Be all of life we share,
Let pity plead within thy breast,
That little all to spare.

So may thy hospitable board
With health and peace be crown'd;
And every charm of heartfelt ease
Beneath thy roof be found.

So when unseen destruction lurks,
Which men like mice may share,
May some kind angel clear thy path,
And break the hidden snare.

The use of the underlined word "pensive" in the first line is most likely intended to do what?

Possible Answers:

To draw attention to the speaker's free-thinking religious beliefs, which have led to his persecution and imprisonment

To create irony and humor, as the mouse's assertion of its own intelligence is clearly undermined in the next three lines

To draw attention to the speaker's extreme intelligence and rationality, setting up his later justification of his experiments on the mouse

To draw attention to the speaker as a thinking, perceiving individual consciousness, setting up his later pleas for equal ethical consideration

To create dramatic irony, as while the mouse clearly believes himself a "prisoner," the audience knows that he is, in fact, a beloved pet

Correct answer:

To draw attention to the speaker as a thinking, perceiving individual consciousness, setting up his later pleas for equal ethical consideration

Explanation:

The use of "pensive" in this context is intended to draw attention to the speaker's (a mouse being experimented on) individual subjectivity. By framing himself as a "pensive" individual (a conscious being able to think and perceive), the speaker sets up his later pleas for equal ethical consideration. Because he is "pensive," it is wrong to deny him the opportunity to experience "nature" and the "never dying flame" of intellectual engagement as he sees fit.

While the petition is framed as a "prisoner's prayer," and some unconventional religious beliefs are discussed in some later stanzas, the implication is that the mouse is only being detained for the purpose of being experimented on, not persecuted for his beliefs. The line is intended to be read sincerely, not with irony. The rest of the poem asserts the mouse's ability to perceive the world in an individual fashion, and the mouse is a research subject, not a beloved pet. The speaker is the mouse being experimented on, not the researcher conducting the experiment.

Example Question #11 : Relationship Between Words

Adapted from "The Mouse’s Petition" in Poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld (1773)


Found in the trap where he had been confined all night by Dr. Priestley, for the sake of making experiments with different kinds of air

“To spare the humbled, and to tame in war the proud.” - Virgil

 

OH! hear a pensive captive's prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the prisoner's cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,

Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,

Which brings impending fate.

If e'er thy breast with freedom glow'd,
And spurn'd a tyrant's chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain.

Oh! do not stain with guiltless blood
Thy hospitable hearth;
Nor triumph that thy wiles betray'd
A prize so little worth.

The scatter'd gleanings of a feast
My scanty meals supply;
But if thine unrelenting heart
That slender boon deny,

The cheerful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given;
Let nature's commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.

The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.

If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts thro' matter's varying forms,
In every form the same,

Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother's soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.

Or, if this transient gleam of day
Be all of life we share,
Let pity plead within thy breast,
That little all to spare.

So may thy hospitable board
With health and peace be crown'd;
And every charm of heartfelt ease
Beneath thy roof be found.

So when unseen destruction lurks,
Which men like mice may share,
May some kind angel clear thy path,
And break the hidden snare.

In the bolded and underlined excerpt, the pairing of "little" with "all" is used to do what? (Note that the italics are included in the original text.)

Possible Answers:

To illustrate the relative unimportance of any individual perceiving consciousness in a complex, constantly varying universe

To create irony and to illustrate the necessity of releasing all animals from human captivity

To illustrate the relative unimportance of human comfort in the face of global environmental concerns

To create irony and to illustrate the foolishness of extending ethical consideration to non-human creatures

To create irony and to illustrate the foolishness of dismissing any aspect of mortal existence

Correct answer:

To create irony and to illustrate the foolishness of dismissing any aspect of mortal existence

Explanation:

The pairing of "little" with "all" in this context is used to create irony, and to illustrate the foolishness of dismissing any aspect of mortal existence. The "little all" that is being referred to here is personal freedom, in addition to literal access to open space and sunlight, which is hardly a "little" thing. The pairing of "little" and "allL here ironizes and shows the failings of ethical systems which apply varying levels of ethical consideration to conscious beings for arbitrary reasons.

Global environmental concerns are not at issue in this poem. The poem is actually arguing for the importance of all individual perceiving consciousness in a complex, constantly varying universe. While it stands to reason that the speaker would advocate for the release of all animals from captivity, in this context that issue is not specifically at play, and the larger issue of ethical reasoning is more specifically being treated.

Example Question #62 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

 

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

The MOST conventional aspect of this poem is which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Its rhyme structure

Its use of personification

Its use of imagery in relation to death

Its characterization of night

Its treatment of mortality as a concept

Correct answer:

Its rhyme structure

Explanation:

This poem features a straightforward alternating ABAB rhyme structure in each of its stanzas. Meanwhile, its treatment of Death as a welcome companion is certainly unconventional, as is its extensive and idiosyncratic personification and characterization and its use of imagery in relation to death (Death’s embrace as the welcoming, encompassing hug of a friend, rather than, for example, a bony hand grasping someone’s ankle).

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