Test #1 partial key (ENG 201Y)


This key has been compiled from your papers (thank you!) and is designed in particular to help those of you earning grades of less than “B” to see answers for Part A that

·         do not merely paraphrase the poem

·         draw content-related conclusions from specific details (please don’t tell me that all poems “flow”)

·         select material that is relevant to an argument (please avoid one-word themes)

·         arrange points coherently

·         contextualize the argument in a sophisticated interpretation of the poem

·         make every word count


The key doesn’t

·         contain essay answers for Part B: my primary aim was for you to see the sorts of patterns that were found and interpreted in the extract

·         contain all of the publishable responses

·         necessarily contain responses that got “A/-“ grades

·         contain sample responses for all of the questions: it’s to give you a sense of how to select and contextualize interpretations of specific details into a rich succinct argument


Some sample answers for some of the questions in Part A:



Mary Hamilton (Version 1):

He’s courted her in the kitchen

He’s courted her in the ha’

He’s courted her in the laigh cellar,

And that was warst of a’.

Anaphora is one of many forms of repetition found in the anonymous ballad Mary Hamilton (Version A), but as one of the most regular forms it makes a particular contribution to the poem’s sing-songy mournfulness and insistent tone of inevitability. Though the poem is highly repetitious, stanza 2 is the only one in which anaphora is used. This sparing use of the device associates it exclusively with the relentless wooer’s advances, and Mary’s inevitable submission to them. As the poem is about a woman who murders her baby ... for which act she is herself condemned to death, anaphora serves to foreground the all-too-human event that sets this tragic tale in motion: the persistent seduction of a young woman. Since the baby dies in the third stanza, the poet has little time to establish sympathy for Mary, so this use of anaphora is the only hint we get as to the nature of her relationship with the father, her own state of mind, and a suggestion of her own victimisation, without which she might be very unsympathetic indeed.

          Anaphora in Henry Howard’s “The soote season” emphasizes the patterns of renewal happening throughout nature. All animals of nature are moving forth, growing and progressing, all but the speaker in his quest for love. By articulating how all of nature is renewing in the advent of spring, the speaker emphasizes his sorrow at the loss of love, its lack of renewal in contrast to everything around him.” (990 ... 211) Or, “... helps set up a contrast between the buoyancy of spring and the melancholy of the speaker revealed in the rhyming couplet. The use of anaphora gives the sense of a cumulative mass and momentum in conjunction with the diverse forms of animal life represented ... The “sorrow” (14) voiced by the speaker at the end of the poem is so startling and dramatic because of the mass of activity that precedes it. The strong presence of natural forces in the landscape enhances the poignant effect the absent beloved has on the narrator.” (990 ... 379)

          Anaphora in Smart’s Jubilate Agno. Remember that it’s a poem “in praise of creation”: the repetition shows Smart “glorying in God’s plan” as well as emphasizing the cat’s importance to him, at the same time as the lack of explicit logical correlation (for what?) reminds us of the poet’s insanity.



          “An example of antithesis is to be found in line 5 of Shakespeare’s sonnet 146: “Why so large cost having so short a lease,/Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend.” We do not think of Shakespeare as a particularly religious writer, and yet this sonnet offers a serious medication on death and salvation ... Antithesis is an ideal device for contrasting life and death and emphasizing the dualism of body (the “fading mansion” of the above passage) and soul, which can be saved – it seems – only by suffering and deprivation of the body (“thy servant’s loss” (9). It is a hard bargain to suffer now for a better life we can only have faith will come, and the morbidity of this meditation, with its insistent harping on death and dying, gives us only a rather austere reassurance. Thus the ambiguities of antithesis, a device which “asserts both similarity and difference” (Adams 111) give us pause to reflect on how strict the division of body and soul really is, and how much of the body’s needs we are willing to sacrifice for what we can only have faith will come.” (930 ... 790)



Marvell, “To his coy mistress”

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust.

          “Here Marvell presents a chiasmus of puns: dust and ashes are obviously associated together, making one tempted to yoke together “quaint honour” and “lust”, and indeed it works on a satirical ironic level. While dust and ashes are almost synonyms, quaint honour and lust are antithetical, responding to our diverging needs for bodily pleasure and social structure. And yet, both as attributes of the human condition, are subject in equal degree to the fates of disintegration and the limits of impermanence, argues Marvell...” (990 ... 009) Or, “The latter two are equivalent and liturgical (as in “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”) while the “a” terms are opposed. The chiasmus works to underline the idea that the opposites of desire and chaste resistance will inevitably be reduced to the same thing. This couplet leads into the final couplet in this section of the poem dealing with the grave where “none ... embrace’ (32). This final negation seemingly persuades the poet and reader to embrace the present moment, as though what follows is the logical and emotional conclusion of his persuasive argument.” (990 ... 379)


Couplet within a sonnet

          “The concluding couplet of Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 ... is a dynamic example of a reversal of thought at the end of a sonnet. In the three preceding quatrains, the poet presents an anti-petrarchan list of the beloved’s rather ordinary and counter-conventional features. She has “nothing like” (1) the golden glow and fair complexion of the typical petrarchan portrait. It is not clear until the closing couplet whether the poet really loves this woman; only that he is a realist in his outlook. He manages to complete his overthrow of idealistic convention by declaring his love is special nonetheless because real and true, unlike the fictitious goddesses others have praised. He loves her for her unique individuality rather than for what she is not.” (990 ... 379) “Here the words rare and compare are rhymed and therefore linked, to accentuate the assertion that the lover sets true standards of beauty ...” (56 ... 869)


Envelope rhyme

Sidney’s Sonnet 71

Who will in fairest book of nature know

How virtue may best lodged in beauty be,

Let him but learn of love to read in thee,

Stella, those fair lines which true goodness show.

[The form of the couplet mirrors its content: “fairest” “show” on the outside, “virtue” on the inside that (be, thee) is emphatically Stella’s.]


Larkin “The Trees”

The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said;

The recent buds relax and spread,

Their greenness is a kind of grief.

“In the case of Larkin’s “The Trees” envelope rhyme is used to imitate the cyclical movement described in the poem. Moreover, the rhyme words chosen by the poet create a tension by linking incongruent words. Words such as leaf suggest life and growth, but Larkin links leaf to grief, thereby creating immediate tension. The use of this particular rhyme scheme emphasizes the thematic contrast between the continual rejuvenation of nature and the unavoidable mortality of humanity.” (.98 ... 910)



          “In his poem “The little black boy”, Blake uses inversion to illustrate his point that people with dark skin can still possess a pure soul. The little black boy claims that “I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child.” (2-3) Black emphasizes “white as an angel” by placing it at the beginning of the sentence. The reader connects this concept of purity to both the black child and the English child since the comparison to an angel can be applied to both. However, this inversion also creates unease since it blurs the difference between white as a physical characteristic belonging to the English child and white as an indication of purity in the black child.” (992 ... 541)



“In a city demarcated by “charter’d” streets, the vision of people marked by “marks of weakness, marks of woe”, repeats, emphasizes and exemplifies a sense of confinement and deterministic inevitability, of people helpless before the fates to which they have been condemned, of birth, marriage, poverty, war and death. The alliteration however relates weakness and woe and thus attributes some human responsibility to our condition.” (990 ... 009)

          “In the poem “The Tyger” Blake addresses the mysteriousness of god by attempting to understand him through one of his creations – the Tyger. By repeatedly asking what created this creature, Blake further asserts his inability to understand and know God: “What the hand dare seize the fire? And wbat shoulder, and what art ... what the hammer, what the chain?” (8-9, 13). The repetition of what emphasizes the mysteriousness of God as well as the methods he uses to create. Blake’s lack of answers to these repeated questions also illustrate ... God’s mysteriousness” (992 ... 541).

          “The triple repetition of the name “Celia” followed by the profanity “shits” has the powerful effect of giving the reader the impression that the lady has done something of which she should be ashamed. Thematically, however, Swift wants the thoughtful reader to realize that the act being so strongly vilified by Strephon is a normal, natural human function  ...” (56 ... 869) [Consider also the significance of the conventionality of the name “Celia”!]



          “In his persuasive poem “Elegy XIX. To his mistress going to bed,” Donne uses several references to licenses, bonds, and seals to emphasize the importance of laying claim on women. He also uses polyptoton to exemplify this: “My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned.” According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, manned means “to have a human crew”. Donne uses this literal meaning to show that the woman has been taken over by a man, similar to the taking over of land. However, by emphasizing the root word man, Donne also illustrates the narrator’s personal claim over his woman: he is the specific man who’s occupied the woman and laid claim: “where my hand is set, my seal shall be” (32).” (992 ... 541). [And don’t forget the military/naval connotations in this poem of confrontation between man and woman ...and how the sense of “filled, equipped” can be taken sexually.]

          Shakespeare’s sonnet 146. “And, Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.” “Throughout the sonnet, the poetic voice urges the soul to enslave the body: now the couplet speaks to the fact that human conception is ultimately limited by its physical boundaries, and our knowledge of the soul, our definition of eternality, our realization of immortality, all “feeds” on our appreciation of the limitations of mortality. Just as light cannot be known without darkness, nor joy without pain, so it seems that the soul, in order to transcend death, must recognize what death is, in all its inevitability.” (990 ... 009); “The main opposition involves the inevitable attrition of the body and the potential endurance of the soul which is at its “centre”. The three words each have a situation in time to them. By being able to “feed on death”, the soul can actually bring death to a half, paradoxically killing him and putting him in the past, after which point the process of “dying”, with which the poem has been preoccupied up to this point is “no more” (14). Through the repetition there is a sense of finality and triumph”. (990 ... 379)

Spenser’s sonnet 75. “The theme is one of yearning for transformation, something polyptoton effortlessly exemplifies by transforming a root word from one form into another.” (930 ... 790)  OR, “The vanity of the poet’s endeavour to “immortalize” the categorically “mortal” is emphasized by the juxtaposition of these two words similar in sound but flatly antithetical in meaning ...” (991 .. 227)



          In Wyatt’s “The long love, that in my thought doth harbour” the stanzas are structured in quatrains, groups of four lines, in this case with the rhyming schemes of abba in the first two quatrains and cdcd in the third. This organization of the poem allows for the presentation of three stages: the speaker’s expression of love, the woman’s displeasure and rejection of his love, and his withdrawal. This careful separation allows the reader to follow the progression of the speaker’s emotion... and adds to the intensity of each emotion ...” (990 ... 211)



          “The refrain of Wyatt’s “My Lute Awake!” emphasizes the love the speaker has for the woman he is speaking about and his lack of control over his feelings. The refrain also underlines the confusion over who is in charge: the player or the lute itself. The poem is about a man playing his lute and singing about his love for a woman that he can never have. At the end of every stanza he tells his lute to stop playing... After every time he says this, another stanza begins, which shows the reader that he does not really want to stop playing the lute nor is he able to stop loving the woman. At the end of the second stanza, the refrain changes slightly to “No, no, my lute, for I have done” (10), suggesting that the speaker is begging his lute to stop, which shows his lack of control. The last refrain is exactly the same as the first one and although the line before it presents a seemingly firm closure, the refrain itself gives a sense of a cycle: perhaps he is telling himself that he is done loving this woman, when indeed he is lying to himself.” (991 ... 933)



          [The rhyme of wide, hide, and chide in Milton’s “When I consider”.] “The reversal of the words world and wide (“in this dark world and wide”) isolate the word wide and emphasize its expansive meaning [more!] as well as its rhyming relationships. By centering in on the word chide, the poem focusses attention on the possible vengeful power of God on those who disobey him. By tying together the words hide and chide there is a powerful association of both the disobedience and the punishment. This ominous threat is important to the theme of what life’s purpose is...” (990 ... 211)

          (Shakespeare’s sonnet 55). “The semantic relationship between room and doom signifies that the room is not an object of permanence, but one that will decay over time. By comparing his praise to room, Shakespeare links his words to similar decay. Therefore, Shakespeare uses rhyme to illustrate his point that nothing (not rooms or words) is guaranteed to last forever.” (992 ... 541)

          (Shakespeare’s sonnet 130) describes a woman that is not of conventional beauty by contrasting her with descriptions often used to describe more traditional beauty: “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun” (3). The rhyme words “sun” and “dun” present contrast: the sun is bright, while dun means “dull grayish brown.” This draws the reader’s attention to the contrast between the mistress and conventional beauty and may also represent the contrast between the conventionality of most sonnets and the originality of Shakespeare’s.” (991 ... 933)



“Negroes, black as Cain..” in Wheatley’s “On being brought from Africa to America.”

          It is odd to liken Negroes to the biblical figure of Cain, since what made him “black” was not his skin colour but his particularly violent and unnatural sin, which is thus disturbingly extended to all black people. Simile, unlike metaphor, sets up a likeness rather than precise identity, which here holds out the hope of removing the sins imputed to blacks. It is of course conventional (and racist) to associate blackness with impurity, made all the more painful here as a black poet employs it. But her use of this convention is rescued somewhat by the syntactic ambiguity of the couplet. The apparent address to “Christians” in line 7 is ambiguous; it may be to both Christians and Negroes or to Negroes, and thus a comment also on “Christians ... black as Cain” who are also in need of refinement before they can join “th’ angelic train.” We cannot of course be confident that her intention was ironic, but it suits our sensibilities to interpret the poem this way.”

          Within Blake’s “The little black boy”, the lines “White as an angel is the English child:/But I am black as if bereaved of light” present a simile, a figure of speech which makes an explicit comparison between two things. In this case the simile is used to dissociate the children from what they are being described as... Throughout the poem it is in fact the little Black boy who is enlightened as to the falsity of colour and the truth that God regards all souls with the same love...” (990 ... 211)



“though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my maker...” in Milton’s sonnet “When I consider”

          “The word with sylleptic meaning in this line is bent, which carries both the meanings of personal inclination and of being physically bent, as broken or under a great burden. Milton mainly intends for the former meaning, which the following line supports. However, in placing the word at the end of a line, as a rhymed word, Milton forces emphasis on it. The reader does not realize Milton’s main meaning until they read the next line. This adds to the poem’s overall effect, for it makes the reader understand the uselessness as well as the willingness of the speaker to serve.” (991 ...343)

“Is this thy body’s end?” in Shakespeare’s sonnet 146.

“Syllepsis ... plays on the double meaning of the poet’s goal in life and of his final destiny ... the question in line 8 .... changes the emphasis from that of selfish life, and the resultant wages of death, to the real issues of Eternity.”



Some patterns and interpretations of details from the texts in Part B


Good answers

·         identify and interpret recurring patterns in the given extract

·         relate patterns to each other in a coherent paragraph

·         contextualize in an overview of the poem (e.g. Marlowe in pastoral)




-utopian pastoral setting, in contrast to conflict and mutability and labour of the “real world”

-sense of harmony

          -“Melodious birds sing madrigals”

          -it’s the last time he uses “we”

-sense of timelessness

                   -continuity of participle “seeing” and present-tense “sing”

-sense of idleness and isolation (or unattainability?)

          -spectators’ separation from shepherds and flocks


-scene exposed as fantastic, contrived, artful

          -speaker projects the couple as spectators of shepherd-scene

          -birds sing oddly artful “madrigals”

                   -anticipates more explicit artfulness (“buckles of the purest gold”)


-scene subtly suggested as temporary, unstable?

          -connotations of the words “shallow” and “falls”




-stanza highlighted by contrast with earlier ones: it stands out

          -narrative rather than dialogue

          -archaic, formulaic diction (“night-dark hair”) rather than modern detail (“guns”, “dogs”)


-exemplifies “the innocence that is wasted due to racial tension”


-rhythm emphasizes the phrases “night-dark hair”, “small brown hands”

          -emphasizes colour: “dark”, “brown”

          -emphasizes her body: “hair”, “hands”


-colour imagery symbolizes racial conflict: “night-dark hair” and “small brown hands” contrast “white gloves” and “white shoes”

          -some persuasive interpretations of the fact that “white” is a covering


-symbolic imagery (plus the fact that she’s going to church!) highlights girl’s innocence and vulnerability

-“white” and “small” and “rose-petal sweet”

          -and thus the injustice of her death

          -and thus the irony that it was caused by “white” action


-the anaphora emphasizes the deliberation of each action and its part in an almost ceremonial sequence: getting ready for church is like getting ready for a battle (which it’s not) and sadly (ironically, unjustly) for a funeral


-emphasis on girl’s body and on her mother’s gentle attention to her presentability in this stanza eventually contrasts with the destruction of the girl’s body

          -combed and brushed ... hair”, “hands”, “feet”


-if “She” is the mother, the girl’s passive submissiveness to her mother’s ministrations will be poignantly echoed in her victimhood


-the mother’s ministrations are those of any human mother, black or white, underlining the injustice of racial prejudice





-contextualize your analysis in the speaker’s self-defence against Stella’s apparent accusation that his principal motivation for writing love poetry is fame

          -preoccupation with self? (first-person pronouns, words like “title”, “my plumes”)

          -suppression of self? (his writing is a reflection of “thy beauty”, the product of “love”)

                   -foregrounded: clearer syntax, coherent couplet


“The third quatrain of Sir Philip Sidney’s Sonnet 90 from “Astrophil and Stella” continues to convey the poet’s uncertain and self-negating outlook has he considers the relation of himself, his writing, and the beloved. The narrator’s use of convoluted syntax and negative language, such as the words “Nay”, “without” and “nothing” express his lack of confidence. His use of conditional language such as “would” and “could” show him to be far removed from settling the state of contradiction that he finds himself in.

          Consistent with one of the traditions of the English sonnet, the closing couplet presents a turn-around. In the closing couplet, the poet fully embraces the power of love as a guiding principle to who he is as a poet and lover of Stella. The language and syntax of this couplet are the most simple and straightforward of all the lines, expressing a new resolution and confidence on the part of the narrator. An enriching feature of the couplet is the syllepsis of “endite” with its double meaning of “to proclaim” and “to inscribe or give literary form to” (Norton 199). This device indicates the reconciliation that has taken place within the narrator and the various aspects of himself – poet and lover of Stella. The second last line (“Since all my words thy beauty doth endite”) is a personal statement and also a literary expression. “And love doth hold my hand, and makes me write” (14) shows the poet finding his resolve and true sense of purpose through his writing being guided by love.” (990 646 379)




Contextualize in speaker’s sense of his own sinfulness: need for punishment? renewal? change...

          -repetition of the word “new” signals importance of this concept


Different worlds are mentioned: repetition encourages us to associate them

          -speaker’s microcosmic spiritual world

-literal new worlds, geographical and cosmological

-implication: the potential for paradigm-shifting Copernican astronomy mirrors (rather than undermines?) the potential for spiritual regeneration?


Who is the potentially ambiguous “You which beyond that heaven which was most high” who has “found new spheres, and of new lands can write”?

          -it’s somebody who can “Pour new seas in mine eyes”: God?

-if He is not only the maker but identified as the “discoverer and author of these “sphere” and “lands” that grants him even more territory and power than before

-links God with what is “new”

-makes God active

          -“You” associated with so many active verbs: “found”, “write”, “pour”, “wash”

          -confirms God’s power to renew (or punish) one sinful human

                   -“wash” rather than “drown” with the same watery medium


Speaker’s world full of conflict

          -water can “drown” or “wash”

          -“angelike” vs “sin”

          -old vs new worlds, etc.

          -“You” vs “I”

                   -emphasizes passivity? struggle? contrastive way of thinking?





-speaker’s purpose to persuade the coy lady to sleep with him now because life is short

-his strategy in the first verse paragraph to acknowledge and (if they had all the time in the world) to accommodate her diffidence


He claims that he’d prefer to take things (very) slowly

          -strikingly incongruous characterization of his love as “vegetable”, slow-growing

          -and to “empires” (vast in time and space, powerful)


He portrays his love for her as great

          -comparison of “love” to “empires”

                   -one of you noted that the later word “state” echoes “empires”

                   -vast, powerful, to be revered

          -would spend hundreds of years adoring her

                   -incongruity undermines sincerity

                             -purpose: make her laugh, get her onside?


He asserts his respect for her (“sincere reverence”)

          -claims to acknowledge and share her desire for taking it slow

          -reverential attitude: like an empire, she should be praised and revered

          -gives her “heart” end-position rather than sexualized body parts

          -comical, exaggerated claims perhaps to provoke a shared laugh

-“If the lover cannot win his beloved with praise, he will perhaps win her with a good chuckle”


But it’s clearly a sexual love (“lustful urgency”)

          -itemizes and objectifies her body parts

-although the “heart” is last, her sexual parts also get end-position and more time: “breast” and “the rest” (unmentionable!)

-“the seeming sincerity of the poet just barely triumphs over the clarity of his (physical and sensual) priorities”

                   -characterizes mistress as very passive, if revered!

          -a few of you speculated on the phallic properties of vast vegetables!


Respectful suggestion for slowness not meant to be taken seriously

          -some of you felt this was humorous (some didn’t!)

          -it’s impossible: they don’t have world enough, and time

                   -full of modal verbs: “should”

                   -incongruous comparisons

                   -secondary sense of the word “age” … mortality


          -syllepsis on “rate”

                   -means “value” or “smaller amounts of time”

-but could also means “speed” (and before we have time to think, “Time’s winged chariot” has hurried near!)





-many of you contextualized this stanza in the earlier emphasis on pervasive suffering

          -earlier emphasis on “Marks” in “every face”

          -explicitly epitomized in the marginalized poor: “Chimney-sweeper”, “Soldier”

                   -culpability ambiguous

                             -alliterative linking of “woe” and “weakness”

                             -“manacles” are “mind-forged”


Final stanza epitomizes, culminates, intensifies “suffering and degradation” of urban life

          -“But most”

                   -“most”: signals hyperbolic representativeness of final images

                   -“But” signals something different, worse


                   -of aural imagery: things spread

                   -of “Infant”: most innocent and vulnerable affected

-capitalization of “Harlot”, “Infant”, “Marriage” suggests allegorical importance


Again, marginal individuals victimized (earlier, by institutions: chimney-sweeper and soldier by Church and Palace)

-both “Infant” and “Harlot” victims

                   -both youthful

-Harlot (“the tragic representation of social oppression”) epitomizes commodification of relationships, oppression of the poor by the rich

          -both victim and (if mother of Infant) victimizer

                   -where does the cycle stop?


Misery pervasive, inevitable, never-ending: images of paradox and “permeation” and “perpetuation”


                   -Harlot victim and victimizer

                   -“Marriage hearse” and “new-born infant’s tear”

                             -misery and death linked with images of birth and beginnings

                                      -inevitability reinforced with sense of curse “fate”

          -content conveyed by and/or associated with aural imagery: sounds spread

-“the Harlot’s curse/ Blasts … And blights”: in its sense of “angry exclamation”, this curse harms…

          -disease imagery: more spreading

                   -“blights” can denote disease

-suggests a non-aural sense for “curse”

                             -and thus an explanation for the “Marriage hearse” (syphilis)     

          -associated with beginnings: predetermined


                   -“Marriage Hearse”


Final oxymoron, “Marriage hearse”, indicts the institution of marriage, which should signify beginnings

-“compacts the whole story of life, crushed hopes and death on the streets of London into a single, doomed image”

-appropriate culmination, since marriage “relies on other institutions (law, church)”