SAT II Literature : Tone, Style, and Mood: Seventeenth-Century Poetry

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

Batter my heart (Holy Sonnet 14)

1          Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
2          As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
3          That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
4          Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
5          I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
6          Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
7          Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
8          But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
9          Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
10        But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
11        Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
12        Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
13        Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
14        Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

The tone of this sonnet is best described as                         .

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



The tone of this sonnet, with its call for divine ravishing and violence, can best be described as sensual.

Example Question #1 : Tone, Style, And Mood

Passage adapted from Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare (1609)
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard;
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow,
  And nothing 'gainst Time’s scythe can make defense
  Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.

The speaker believes that ________________ is the only way to immortalize oneself against the passage of time. 

Possible Answers:

having children

being beautiful

planting crops

getting married

Correct answer:

having children


The word "breed" in line 14 "Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence" refers to a man having children. "To brave him" is to defy time itself, "him" here referring to "Time" in line 13. "When he takes thee hence" is a metaphor for death, meaning "when time takes you away."

Example Question #3 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Poetry

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.


The speaker’s tone is best described as _______________.

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



The speaker's extravagant and sustained metaphors for love indicate a sense of celebration and enthusiasm. The poem is a kind of rhapsody about love. 

While the speaker is certainly devoted to the idea of love, he imagines that love as equal, so "obsequious" doesn't fit. And while the speaker also mediates on the idea of "fancies," he ultimately sees these as inferior to the love he's now achieved; "whimsical," therefore, doesn't fit either.

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

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