1. “In a Library” is a poem written by Emily Dickinson. A student who read the poem claims that Dickinson personifies an antique book, seeing it as a man whom she joys to meet. Which quotation from “In a Library” most effectively illustrates the claim?

A. What interested scholars most/ what competitions ran/ When Plato was a certainty/ And Sophocles a man
B. He traverses familiar/ As one should come to town/ And tell you all your dreams were true/ He lived where dreams were sown.
C. His presence is enchantment/ you beg him not to go/ old volumes shake their vellum heads/ and tantalize just so.
D. A precious moldering pleasure ‘tis/ To meet an antique book.

2. The following is the poem The Book of Martyrs (adapted), by Emily Dickinson

Read, sweet, how others strove,
Till we are stouter;
What they renounced,
Till we are less afraid;
How many times they bore
The faithful witness,
Till we are helped,
As if a kingdom cared!

Read then of faith
That shone above the fray;
Clear strains of hymn
The river could not drown;
Brave names of men
And celestial women,
Passed out of record
Into renown!

What is the main idea of the text?

A. Students should read diligently and memorize names of men and women who have passed away.
B. We should read of and look to the examples of those who went before us to gain strength, courage, and help.
C. Those who came before us are gone, passed out of the record, and no longer worth the effort to learn about.
D. Life is difficult; those older than us can attest to the fear and weakness of this mortal life.

3. The following is a poem by Emily Dickinson:

If you were coming in the fall,
I’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I’d count them on my hand,
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I’d toss it yonder like a rind,
And taste eternity. But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,
That will not state its sting.

Based on the text, what is it that goads the narrator “like the goblin bee”?

A. The constant turn of the seasons of the year
B. The centuries of life she has lived
C. A fly, buzzing around her head
D. The uncertainly of time

4. “In Vain” is a poem by Emily Dickinson. A literature professor tells her class that the poem shows Dickinson’s anxiety around losing loved ones. Which quotation from the poem best illustrates this claim?

A. I cannot live with you/ It would be life/ And life is over there/ behind the shelf.
B. Glow plain and foreign/ On my homesick eye/ Except that you, than he/ Shone closer by.
C. And were you lost, I would be/ Though my name/ Rang loudest/ On the heavenly frame.
D. So we must keep apart/ you there, I here/ With just the door ajar


5. The following is a poem by Emily Dickinson:

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.

Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?

A. To explain what is most important to the common honey bee.
B. To make a statement on the aristocratic nature of pollinating insects.
C. To make a point about hierarchy, using a nature metaphor.
D. To show the reader what is truly important in life.

6. “A Service of Song” is a poem by Emily Dickinson, a poet who was active in 19th century America.
Note: a bobolink is a type of songbird.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome.

Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.

God preaches, — a noted clergyman, —
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I’m going all along!

Which choice best describes the function of the underlined portion in the text as a whole?

A. It paints a picture of an unconventional practice which is later clarified.
B. It shows that the narrator is a rebel, a fact that has later consequences.
C. It helps the reader understand why the narrator chooses to stay home.
D. It singles out the narrator as a chorister and bird lover.

7. A student reads the poem “The Grass” by Emily Dickinson and claims that the narrator envies the simple life of grass. Which quotation from “The Grass” most effectively illustrates the claim?

A. The grass so little has to do/A sphere of simple green/ With only butterflies to brood/And bees to entertain.
B. The grass so little has to do/ I wish I were the hay!
C. And even when it dies, to pass/ in odors so divine
D. And stir all day to pretty tunes/ The breezes fetch along/ And hold the sunshine in its lap/ and bow to everything.

8. The following is a poem by Emily Dickinson.

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth, — the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names. Which choice best states the main idea of the text?

A. Truth is beauty and beauty is truth.
B. Finding like-minded people is worth any effort.
C. There is beauty and truth in the death of evil people.
D. Once deceased, people are as quickly forgotten as moss covers their gravestones.

9. A student reads an untitled poem by Emily Dickinson and claims that the man discussed in the passage is dying or dead. Which quotation from the poem most effectively illustrates the claim?

A. What was his furthest mind, of home, or God,/ Or what the distant say/At news that he ceased human nature/On such a day?
B. To know just how he suffered would be dear/ To know if any human eyes were near
C. And wishes, had he any?/ Just his sigh, accented,/ Had been legible to me./ And was he confident until
D. Was he afraid, or tranquil?/ Might he know/ How conscious consciousness could grow,/ Till love that was, and love too blest to be,/Meet —

10. “Trying to Forget” is a poem by Emily Dickinson:

Bereaved of all, I went abroad,
  No less bereaved to be
Upon a new peninsula, —
  The grave preceded me,

Obtained my lodgings ere myself,
  And when I sought my bed,
The grave it was, reposed upon
   The pillow for my head.

I waked, to find it first awake,
   I rose, — it followed me;
I tried to drop it in the crowd,
   To lose it in the sea, In cups of artificial drowse
  To sleep its shape away, —
The grave was finished, but the spade
  Remained in memory.

Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?

A. To paint a realistic picture of the grief of a traveler.
B. To metaphorically explain how the loss of a loved one effects the narrator.
C. To describe a troubled vacation.
D. To illustrate the narrator’s struggle with the thought of death.

Answer Explanations

  1. C. Answer option A gives no evidence that a book is being personified. Rather, it says that Sophocles (a person) was a man. Answer option B would be good evidence if we knew that the author was talking about a book. However, it could just as likely be about an actual man. Answer option D shows the author’s joy in “meeting” a book, but does not go so far as to personify the book as a man. Option C, therefore is the best option. It refers to the “old volumes” as “him” and it says that his presence is “enchantment”. Meaning, the author gets joy from the presence.
  2. B. The first stanza of the text commands us to read about how others strove, renounced, and bore witness until we are stouter, less afraid, and helped. The second stanza commands us to read of the faith that others had and the men and women who passed into renown. Passing into renown could be otherwise stated as passing from this life into memory. The poems main idea, therefore best fits with option B. Option A is incorrect as there is no encouragement of memorization. Option C is the opposite of the message of the poem. Option D is incorrect as the author wants us to look to those gone as examples of good things, not fear and weakness.
  3. D. In the first stanza of the poem, the author discusses what she would do if “you” were coming in the fall. She is waiting for seasons to pass. In the second stanza she talks about years. In the third stanza she is waiting centuries. However, in the last stanza she talks about how she doesn’t know which of these (seasons, years, centuries) she will have to wait. She is “ignorant of the length of time’s uncertain wing”. Time, therefore is the bee that goads her. D is the only answer that makes sense.   
  4. C. Answer option C tells of the narrator’s belief that even heavenly exultation would not be enough for her if “you were lost”. This shows her intense fear around losing a loved one. She believes she would be lost no matter what, were the object of the poem also lost. Answer option A is incorrect as it shows that Dickinson does not want to live with the object of the poem. Answer option B is incorrect as it shows her attachment to the object of the poem, not her anxiety about losing him or her. Answer option D is incorrect as it shows that the narrator wishes to remain apart from the object of the poem, not that she fears losing him or her.
  5. C. The poem is saying that bees like all honey regardless of pedigree and that clovers are all seen as “aristocracy”. The metaphor applies to humans, that we should all regard one another as bees regard honey and aristocracy. This makes C the best answer.  Answer A is incorrect as we find out that bees regard all honey and clover equally, not with some more important than others. Answer B is incorrect, as the author is not saying that bees are aristocratic. Answer option D is incorrect, as the poem makes not allusion to what humans should value the most, rather, that we should value all humans equally. 
  6. A. The underlined portion points out that the narrator, instead of going to church on Sunday, which would have been the accepted practice in 19th century America, stays at home. The songbirds are her choir and the orchard is the roof of her church. This is an unconventional practice for the time. Later in the poem, she clarifies that she does this as she believes that this place, the orchard, is her heaven where she has been “going all along”. This makes option A the best answer and the other options incorrect.
  7. B. Answer option B shows the envy of the narrator as she wishes she were the hay. Hay is just another word for grass. The other options all show what might be enviable qualities of grass, but not that the narrator actually envies it.
  8. A. The poem tells a story of someone who dies and, “in the tomb” meets a man who asks why she died. She replies that she died for beauty and he responds by saying that he died for truth and that “the two are one; we brethren are”. They then form a bond, a friendship, in death, over their similar causes. This best fits with answer option A. Answer B is incorrect as the main idea is that truth and beauty are the same and worth dying for, not that finding like-minded people is worth dying for. Answer C is incorrect as there is no evidence either of these people are evil. Answer option D is incorrect, as it captures only a part of the last stanza, not the main idea of the whole text.
  9. A. Answer option A is the best option because it talks about the man as having “ceased human nature” which is another way of saying to die. This excerpt is asking what the man was thinking of as he passed away. The other options do not as clearly prove the claim, but rather offer only peripheral evidence in the context of answer option A.
  10. D. In the first stanza the author goes to “a new peninsula” but the grave proceeds her there. In the second stanza she finds a place to stay and yet the grave waited for her in her new bed. In the third stanza, the grave follows her as she wakes and goes about her day. She can only escape these thoughts of grave and death when she sleeps in the fourth stanza. This makes option D the best answer.

All poems were taken from Book of Poems by Emily Dickinson.  You can read more of this book here:

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