Poems for Comparison and Contrast for AP English Literature (page 2)
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!
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.
- Both have the same topic—to a lover
- Both address and adore the beloved
- Both use similes: "She Walks"—"like the night"; "Sonnet 130"—"nothing like the sun"
- Both rely on nature imagery: "She Walks"—"starry skies"; "Sonnet 130"—"Coral, roses"
- Both deal with light or dark
- Both include references to lover's hair: "She Walks"—"raven tress"; "Sonnet 130"— "black wires"
- Both appeal to the senses: "She Walks"—"raven tress"; "Sonnet 130"—perfume, roses, music, garlic stink
- Both use alliteration: "She Walks"—"cloudless climes"; "Sonnet 130"—"goddess go"
- Form: "She Walks" lyric, has sestets; "Sonnet 130," 12 + 2 (3 quatrains and couplet)
- Kind of love: "She Walks" serious and adoring; "Sonnet 130"—critical and humorous
- Diction: "She Walks"—positive; "Sonnet 130"—negative
- Ending: "She Walks"—adoring; "Sonnet 130"—realistic
- Tone: "She Walks"—idyllic; "Sonnet 130"—realistic
To recap: If you are given two selections, consider the following:
- What is the form or structure of the poems?
- What is the situation or subject of each?
- How are the poetic devices used?
- What imagery is developed?
- What thematic statements are made?
- What is the tone of each poem?
- What is the organization or progression of each poem?
- What attitudes are revealed?
- What symbols are developed?
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