SAT II Literature : Structure and Form: Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #31 : Structure And Form: Poetry

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light's delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away. 

I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

(1918) 

The form of this poem most closely resembles that of __________

Possible Answers:

A melancholic ode

An elegy 

A lament 

None of these 

A sonnet

Correct answer:

A sonnet

Explanation:

The 14-line structure with a turn in the last two lines should tip the reader off that this is a sonnet. 

While the word "lament" (line 6) might make this answer tempting, laments are usually more explicitly about grief for something lost. The same goes for an elegy, which is a lament in a lyric tradition. Finally, while there's certainly a lot of melancholia in the poem, it isn't an ode. 

Passage adapted from "[I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day]" (1918) by Gerald Manley Hopkins. 

Example Question #32 : Structure And Form: Poetry

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent 
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went! 
And more must, in yet longer light's delay. 
With witness I speak this. But where I say 
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament 
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent 
To dearest him that lives alas! away. 

I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree 
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me; 
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse. 
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see 
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be 
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

(1918) 

The highlighted line offers an example of which meter? 

Possible Answers:

Irregular iambs 

None of these

Natural speech 

Iambic pentameter 

Sprung rhythm 

Correct answer:

Iambic pentameter 

Explanation:

Hopkins was famous for coining the term "sprung rhythm": an irregular metrical form designed to more closely mimic natural speech. In this poem, however, he relies more on tradition meters. The opening line of the poem is a basic iambic pentameter. 

Passage adapted from "[I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day]" (1918) by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Example Question #73 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent 
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went! 
And more must, in yet longer light's delay. 
With witness I speak this. But where I say 
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament 
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent 
To dearest him that lives alas! away. 

I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree 
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me; 
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse. 
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see 
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be 
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

(1918) 

Which of the following most accurately represents the poem's rhyme scheme? 

Possible Answers:

abbaabba
ccdccd

abbaabba
aabaab

abaababb
cddcdd

None of these 

abaaabaa
ccdccd

Correct answer:

abbaabba
ccdccd

Explanation:

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day. (A) 
What hours, O what black hours we have spent (B) 
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went! (B) 
And more must, in yet longer light's delay. (A)
With witness I speak this. But where I say (A)
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament (B)
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent (B)
To dearest him that lives alas! away. (A) 

I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree (C)
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me; (C) 
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse. (D)
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see (C)
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be (C)
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse. (D) 

Passage adapted from "[I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day]" (1918) by Gerald Manley Hopkins. 

Example Question #74 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

Passage adapted from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897)
Translated by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard (in public domain)

[Cyrano speaks to Roxane.]

CYRANO:

  1. Ay, true, the feeling
  2. Which fills me, terrible and jealous, truly
  3. Love,--which is ever sad amid its transports!
  4. Love,--and yet, strangely, not a selfish passion!
  5. I for your joy would gladly lay mine own down,
  6. --E'en though you never were to know it,--never!
  7. --If but at times I might--far off and lonely,--
  8. Hear some gay echo of the joy I bought you!
  9. Each glance of thine awakes in me a virtue,--
  10. A novel, unknown valor. Dost begin, sweet,
  11. To understand? So late, dost understand me?
  12. Feel'st thou my soul, here, through the darkness mounting?
  13. Too fair the night! Too fair, too fair the moment!
  14. That I should speak thus, and that you should hearken!
  15. Too fair! In moments when my hopes rose proudest,
  16. I never hoped such guerdon. Naught is left me
  17. But to die now! Have words of mine the power
  18. To make you tremble,--throned there in the branches?
  19. Ay, like a leaf among the leaves, you tremble!
  20. You tremble! For I feel,--an if you will it,
  21. Or will it not,--your hand's beloved trembling
  22. Thrill through the branches, down your sprays of jasmine!

 

The meter of this speech is _________________.

Possible Answers:

Sprung rhythm

Iambic tetrameter

Free verse

Blank verse

Mixed meter

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

The speech is written in blank verse: unrhymed lines of ten or eleven syllables each.

Blank verse is composed of feet called iambs (the ones that go da-DUM), but it is not iambic tetrameter. A line of iambic tetrameter contains only four iambs (“da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM”), while blank verse contains five (“da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM.”)

Free verse and sprung verse are both terms for poetry that lacks any consistent meter. Cyrano’s speech, in contrast, is rhythmically even. A mixed meter poem contains several different meters within one work. Again, Cyrano’s monologue is written in one consistent rhythm.

Example Question #33 : Structure And Form: Poetry

On thy stupendous summit, rock sublime! 

That o’er the channel reared, half way at sea 
The mariner at early morning hails, 
I would recline; while Fancy should go forth, 
And represent the strange and awful hour                                        5
Of vast concussion; when the Omnipotent 
Stretched forth his arm, and rent the solid hills, 
Bidding the impetuous main flood rush between 
The rifted shores, and from the continent 
Eternally divided this green isle.                                                     10
Imperial lord of the high southern coast! 
From thy projecting head-land I would mark 
Far in the east the shades of night disperse, 
Melting and thinned, as from the dark blue wave 
Emerging, brilliant rays of arrowy light                                            15
Dart from the horizon; when the glorious sun 
Just lifts above it his resplendent orb. 
Advances now, with feathery silver touched, 
The rippling tide of flood; glisten the sands, 
While, inmates of the chalky clefts that scar                                    20
Thy sides precipitous, with shrill harsh cry, 
Their white wings glancing in the level beam, 
The terns, and gulls, and tarrocks, seek their food, 
And thy rough hollows echo to the voice 
Of the gray choughs, and ever restless daws,                                  25
With clamor, not unlike the chiding hounds, 
While the lone shepherd, and his baying dog, 
Drive to thy turfy crest his bleating flock. 
 
The high meridian of the day is past,                                              
And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven,                                  30
Is of cerulean hue; and murmurs low 
The tide of ebb, upon the level sands. 
The sloop, her angular canvas shifting still, 
Catches the light and variable airs                                                 
That but a little crisp the summer sea,                                           35
Dimpling its tranquil surface. 

There is a major shift at line 13 from ______________.

Possible Answers:

Images of solidity and permanence to images of ephemeralness and change

Descriptions of nature to descriptions of mankind 

Entirely negative to entirely positive imagery 

Literal descriptions to metaphorical descriptions

Imagery suggesting good to imagery suggesting evil

Correct answer:

Images of solidity and permanence to images of ephemeralness and change

Explanation:

At line 13 there is a major shift from images of solidity and permanence to images of ephemeralness and change. In the first 12 lines the speaker is describing solid, permanent-seeming things such as a rock with a "stupendous summit" and the shape of the landscape. The adjectives "solid" and "eternal" are used in this section of the poem. At line 13 the speaker switches to discussing more ephemeral and changing things, such as light, flying birds, and the tides. Compare the adjectives "solid" and "eternal" from the first 12 lines to the words that appear in the rest of the poem: "disperse," "meliting," "emerging," "restless," and "the tide of ebb, upon the level sands." There is no shift from negative to positive imagery, or from imagery suggesting good to imagery suggesting evil. The entire poem is primarily focused on nature, not humanity, and the poem contains a consistent amount of figurative language throughout.

Passage adapted from Charlotte Smith's "Beach Head" (1807)

Example Question #33 : Structure And Form: Poetry

  1. One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
  2. But came the waves and washed it away:
  3. Again I wrote it with a second hand,
  4. But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
  5. Vain man, said she, that doest in vain assay
  6. A mortal thing so to immortalize,
  7. For I myself shall like to this decay,
  8. And eek my name be wiped out likewise.
  9. Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
  10. To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
  11. My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
  12. And in the heavens write your glorious name.
  13. Where whenas Death shall all the world subdue,
  14. Our love shall live, and later life renew.

The poem comprises _________________.

I.   3 quatrains
II.  1 couplet
III. 1 sestet

Possible Answers:

I, II, and III only

II and III only

I and II only

I only

I and III only

Correct answer:

I and II only

Explanation:

Quatrains are groups of four lines held together by their rhyme scheme. Sestets are similar groups of six lines. (We usually associate sestets with Italian sonnets.) Couplets are pairs of successive rhyming lines. This poem comprises four quatrains followed by one couplet. (It’s a heroic couplet because it’s in iambic pentameter.) The overall rhyme scheme (ABAB  BCBC  CDCD  EE) tells us that this poem is a Spenserian sonnet.

Passage adapted from Edmund Spenser's "Sonnet 75" (1594)

Example Question #81 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

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.

“Sleep with your head on a golden pillow” is contrasted with _________________.

Possible Answers:

Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by

See your temple worn

Bind your brow with willow

Follow after the sound of a silver horn

See your cheek grow sallow

Correct answer:

Bind your brow with willow

Explanation:

The second stanza contains two comparisons:

1.  “Bind your brow with willow” vs. “Sleep with your head on a golden pillow”, and

2.  “follow, follow until you die” vs. “Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.”

The author is saying that you can choose either to bind your brow with willow (i.e., live with grief and suffering) while remaining open to intense life experience, or you can choose to live in comfort and material luxury while remaining inwardly asleep — that is, oblivious to the heights and depths of passion.

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

Example Question #32 : Structure And Form: Poetry

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.

The poem is comprised of ___________.

I.   3 quatrains
II.  3 stanzas
III. 6 couplets

Possible Answers:

I and II only

I and III only

I only

II only

I, II, and III

Correct answer:

I and II only

Explanation:

A stanza is a set of lines grouped together in a poem. Quatrains are stanzas with four lines, and sestets are stanzas with 6 lines. (We usually associate sestets with Italian sonnets.) Couplets are pairs of successive rhyming lines. This poem comprises 6 stanzas which are also quatrains. It contains no sestets or couplets.

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

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