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Poems for Comparison and Contrast for AP English Literature

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Sometimes the AP exam requires you to compare and contrast two poems or prose selections in the essay section. Do not panic. The selections will usually be short and the points of comparison or contrast plentiful and accessible. This type of question can be interesting and provide you with a chance to really explore ideas.

Following are two poems suitable for this kind of analysis. Read each poem carefully. Take a minute to look at them and allow a few ideas to take shape in your mind. Then plan your approach logically. Remember, form and content are your guidelines.

She Walks in Beauty

by Lord Byron

      She walks in Beauty, like the night
        Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
      And all that's best of dark and bright
        Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
      Thus mellowed to that tender light
        Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
      One shade the more, one ray the less,
        Had half impaired the nameless grace
      Which waves in every raven tress,
        Or softly lightens o'er her face;
      Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
        How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
      And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
        So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
      The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
        But tell of days in goodness spent,
      A mind at peace with all below,
        A heart whose love is innocent!

Sonnet 130

by William Shakespeare

      My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
      Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
      If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
      If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
      I have seen roses damasked red and white,
      But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
      And in some perfumes is there more delight
      Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
      I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
      That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
      I grant I never saw a goddess go:
      My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
      And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
      As any she belied with false compare.

It is essential that you read each poem again, marking, highlighting, connecting, etc. those points you will develop. List or chart your findings before you begin to write your essay.

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