SAT II Literature : Structure and Form: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #71 : Interpreting Excerpts

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

This poem is an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

a villanelle

a ballad

free verse

blank verse

iambic tetrameter

Correct answer:

free verse

Explanation:

This poem is written in free verse because it does not use a consistent meter or rhyme scheme. "Blank verse" refers to unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. "A ballad" is a poem set to music, often narrative in its content. "A villanelle" consists of nineteen lines (five tercets and a quatrain) with a repeating rhyme structure. "Iambic tetrameter" refers to a form of meter that consists of four beats ("tetra") in the iambic foot.

Example Question #21 : Excerpt Purpose In Context

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."

The juxtaposition of the man's calmness and the information he gives the speaker in the last four underlined lines shows __________.

Possible Answers:

that the man is incapable of strong emotions

that grief can be so great it can make a person completely unresponsive

that there is no point in having strong emotions after the death of a son

that the man has reached a level of peace where he can confront even harsh facts

that outliving your children is the epitome of futility

Correct answer:

that the man has reached a level of peace where he can confront even harsh facts

Explanation:

We must infer from the information given to us by the speaker what the juxtaposition shows us. There is nothing to suggest, from the small amount of information, that the man cannot experience strong emotions, and the fact that the narrator punctuates the poem with the man's son's death shows he wants to emphasize that strong emotions probably should accompany the death of a son. We know the narrator does not want us to consider futility as he or she is full of praise for the old man. We also know the old man is most certainly not unresponsive as he is willing to engage with the speaker. So, we can conclude that the man has reached a level of peace where he can be stoic in the face of death or where his oneness with the world prevents him from falling into hysterics.

Example Question #21 : Structure And Form

Passage adapted from "Poetry" by Marianne Moore (1919)

Poetry

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. 
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine. 

Considering the title, which word best describes the initial tone of this poem?

Possible Answers:

Ironic

Cynical 

Pedantic

Contemptuous

Correct answer:

Ironic

Explanation:

The tone is ironic because of the poem's context. The author describes her distaste for the "fiddle" of poetry in a poem, giving an almost satirical critique of the form and its cultural context. If the author's opinion about poetry were plain, uncomplicated, and unironic, we would expect her to write her analysis of poetry in a different form.

Example Question #22 : Structure And Form: Poetry

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? 
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date: 
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; 
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st; 
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 

This poem is an example of which poetic form?

Possible Answers:

Sestina

Sonnet

Epic

Limerick 

Correct answer:

Sonnet

Explanation:

A sonnet loosely defined as any poem of exactly fourteen lines, with various subtypes. This poem, by William Shakespeare, is an example of a Shakespearean sonnet. It is written in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of ABAB (end-rhymes every other line) until the final couplet, which rhymes CC (two lines rhymed back-to-back). 

Passage adapted from Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" (1609)

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

1 Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
2 Or you survive when I in earth am rotten;
3 From hence your memory death cannot take,
4 Although in me each part will be forgotten.
5 Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
6 Though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
7 The earth can yield me but a common grave,
8 When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie.
9 Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
10 Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
11 And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
12 When all the breathers of this world are dead;
13    You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen) 
14    Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men. 

 

(1609)

This type of poem is a ___________________.

Possible Answers:

terza rima

ballad

Petrarchan sonnnet

villanelle

Shakespearean sonnet

Correct answer:

Shakespearean sonnet

Explanation:

This poem is in fact a Shakespearean sonnet, which is obvious because it fulfills all the requirements of a Shakespearean sonnet:

It has fourteen lines.

It is written in iambic pentameter.

It is written in some way on the topic of love.

It has the following rhyme scheme:  ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 80" (1609)

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

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!

The meter of the poem serves to emphasize _______________.

Possible Answers:

the emptiness of the speaker’s existence

the poem’s allegorical meaning

the speaker’s rigidly limited circumstances

the speaker’s religious faith

the speaker’s reverence for the dead

Correct answer:

the speaker’s rigidly limited circumstances

Explanation:

The poem is in blank verse: a relatively regular meter that emphasizes the speaker's straitened life circumstances. Instead of "rebelling" and bursting out into free verse, the speaker is constrained by the even rhythm of iambic pentameter.

There is no textual evidence for the other answer choices. There is no suggestion that the speaker is religious, or that she feels reverence for the dead; the poem is not an allegory; the speaker's existence may be empty, but there's no clear connection between that and the sound of blank verse.

Example Question #22 : Structure And Form

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright, 

In the forests of the night, 
What immortal hand or eye 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 

In what distant deeps or skies 
Burnt the fire of thine eyes? 
On what wings dare he aspire? 
What the hand dare sieze the fire? 

And what shoulder, & what art, 
Could twist the sinews of thy heart? 
And when thy heart began to beat, 
What dread hand? & what dread feet? 

What the hammer? what the chain? 
In what furnace was thy brain? 
What the anvil? what dread grasp 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp? 

When the stars threw down their spears, 
And water'd heaven with their tears, 
Did he smile his work to see? 
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? 

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright 
In the forests of the night, 
What immortal hand or eye 
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

(1794)

Which of the following best describes the form of the poem?

Possible Answers:

A villanelle

A sonnet

A sestina

A free verse poem

6 stanzas with end rhyme

Correct answer:

6 stanzas with end rhyme

Explanation:

The poem has a specific structure, with lines that end in rhyme. The poem is not a sonnet, villanelle, or sestina, as it does not contain the repetition of certain words or phrases. The poem is also divided into 6 stanzas.

Passage adapted from William Blake's "The Tyger" (1794)

Example Question #23 : Structure And Form

When my mother died I was very young, 
And my father sold me while yet my tongue 
Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" 
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep. 
 
There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head 
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, so I said, 
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare, 
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." 
 
And so he was quiet, & that very night, 
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight! 
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack, 
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black; 
 
And by came an Angel who had a bright key, 
And he opened the coffins & set them all free; 
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run, 
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun. 
 
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind, 
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind. 
And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, 
He'd have God for his father & never want joy. 
 
And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark 
And got with our bags & our brushes to work. 
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm; 
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm. 

(1789)

What is the effect of the rhyme structure of the poem? 

Possible Answers:

It draws a parallel between angelic songs and the work of the chimney-sweepers

It illustrates that the children enjoy their work and treat it like it's playtime

None of these

It juxtaposes the harsh work of child chimney-sweepers with the innocent sound of a children's nursery rhyme

It symbolizes that the children are going to heaven

Correct answer:

It juxtaposes the harsh work of child chimney-sweepers with the innocent sound of a children's nursery rhyme

Explanation:

This is the correct answer because the actual content of the poem is very dark- children laboring as chimney sweepers- but the fact that the harsh work is being done by children is juxtaposed with the reality that they're still only old enough to be learning nursery rhymes.

Passage adapted from William Blake's Songs of Innocence (1789).

Example Question #24 : Structure And Form

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.

(1633)

The meter used in these lines is __________

Possible Answers:

Iambic hexameter

Iambic pentameter

None of these

Trochaic pentameter

Syllabic 

Correct answer:

Iambic pentameter

Explanation:

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

The meter is stressed-unstressed (iambic), and each line contains five feet (pentameter).

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

Example Question #24 : Structure And Form: 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."
 
(1819)

This type of poem is a(n) ________________.

Possible Answers:

sonnet

ballad

Petrarchan sonnet

ode

parody

Correct answer:

ode

Explanation:

The form and content of this poem reveal it to be an ode. The form of an ode is a lyric poem of considerable length. The content of an ode is usually praise of something delivered in a serious and elevated tone.

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

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