Only $35.99/year

AP Literature Unit 5 Progress Check: MCQ

Terms in this set (27)

Now, I faced solitude of a rare purity. In the darkness, above the sheer drop, I could see the lights of Forty-second Street flashing in the visible distance. The railings of the fire escape, which were probably precarious at the best of times, were slicked with water and inimical1 to the grip. I moved carefully, taking step after premeditated step. The wind pushed around the building noisily, and I took some grim comfort in the idea that, if I were to fall from that height, there was no question of being maimed: death would be instant. The thought calmed me, and I stepped and slid down the metal steps, a few modest inches at a time. My high-wire act continued for long minutes in the darkness. And then I saw that the fire escape went only halfway down the building, ending abruptly at another closed door. The rest of the way down to the ground, some two flights, was air alone. But luck was with me: this second door had a handle. I tried it and it opened, into a hallway.
Before I entered the door, holding it open with relief and gratitude, it occurred to me to look straight up, and much to my surprise, there were stars. Stars! I hadn't thought I would be able to see them, not with the light pollution perpetually wreathing the city, and not on a night on which it had been raining. But the rain had stopped while I was climbing down, and had washed the air clean. The miasma2 of Manhattan's electric lights did not go very far up into the sky, and in the moonless night, the sky was like a roof shot through with light, and heaven itself shimmered. Wonderful stars, a distant cloud of fireflies: but I felt in my body what my eyes could not grasp, which was that their true nature was the persisting visual echo of something that was already in the past. In the unfathomable ages it took for light to cross such distances, the light source itself had in some cases been long extinguished, its dark remains stretched away from us at ever greater speeds.
But, in the dark spaces between the dead, shining stars, were stars I could not see, stars that still existed, and were giving out light that hadn't reached me yet, stars now living and giving out light but present to me only as blank interstices. Their light would arrive on earth eventually, long after I and my whole generation and the generation after me had slipped out of time, perhaps long after the human race itself was extinguished. To look into those dark spaces was to have a direct glimpse of the future. I gripped the rusted railing of the fire escape with one hand and tightened my hold on the open door with the other. The night air clipped my ears. I looked down, a steep drop, and the blurred yellow rectangle of a taxicab sped by, and then an ambulance, its wailing reaching me from seven floors below, and stretching out as it headed toward Times Square's neon inferno. I wished I could meet the unseen starlight halfway, starlight that was unreachable because my entire being was caught up in a blind spot, starlight that was coming as fast as it could, covering almost seven hundred million miles every hour. It would arrive in due time, and cast its illumination on other humans, or perhaps on other configurations of our world, after unimaginable catastrophes had altered it beyond recognition. My hands held metal, my eyes starlight, and it was as though I had come so close to something that it had fallen out of focus, or fallen so far away from it that it had faded away.
Night
1 I stood and watched the still, mysterious Night, Steal from her shadowy caverns in the East, To work her deep enchantments on the world. Her black veil floated down the silent glens,5 While her dark sandalled feet, with noiseless tread, Moved to a secret harmony. Along The brows of the majestic hills, she strung Her glorious diamonds so stealthily, It never marred their dreams; and in the deep, 10Cool thickets of the wood, where scarce the Day Could reach the dim retreat, her dusky hand Pinned on the breast of the exhaling flower, A glittering gem; while all the tangled ferns And forest lace-work, as she moved along, 15Grew moist and shining. Who would e'er have guessed, The queenly Night would deign to stoop and love A little flower! And yet, with all her stealth, I saw her press her damp and cooling lip 20Upon the feverish bosom of a Rose; At which a watchful bird poured sudden forth A love-sick song, of sweet and saddest strain.
Upon the ivied rocks, and rugged crags On which the ocean billows break, she hung 25Her sombre mantle; and the gray old sea That had been high in tumult all the day, Became so mesmerized beneath her wiles, He seemed a mere reflection of herself. The billows sank into a dimpled sleep; 30Only the little tide-waves glided up To kiss the blackness of the airy robe That floated o'er them. Long I stood and watched The mystic, spell-like influence of Night; 35Till o'er the eastern hills, came up the first Faint glories of the crown that Phoebus* wears. And soon, the Earth, surprised to see the work That Night had wrought, began to glow and blush, Like maidens, conscious of the glance of Love. 40While she, — the dark Enchantress, — like to one Who decorates her bower with all things fair, Wherewith to please her lover, but yet flees At his approaching step, — at the first gleam That lit the zenith from the Day-god's eye, 45Fled timid o'er the distant western hills.
A Poet to His Baby Son
Tiny bit of humanity, Blessed with your mother's face, And cursed with your father's mind.
I say cursed with your father's mind,5Because you can lie so long and so quietly on your back, Playing with the dimpled big toe of your left foot, And looking away, Through the ceiling of the room, and beyond. Can it be that already you are thinking of being a poet?
10Why don't you kick and howl, And make the neighbors talk about "That damned baby next door," And make up your mind forthwith To grow up and be a banker15Or a politician or some other sort of go-getter Or—?—whatever you decide upon, Rid yourself of these incipient1 thoughts About being a poet.
For poets no longer are makers of songs,20Chanters of the gold and purple harvest, Sayers of the glories of earth and sky, Of the sweet pain of love And the keen joy of living; No longer dreamers of the essential dreams,25And interpreters of the eternal truth, Through the eternal beauty. Poets these days are unfortunate fellows. Baffled in trying to say old things in a new way Or new things in an old language,30They talk abracadabra In an unknown tongue, Each one fashioning for himself A wordy world of shadow problems, And as a self-imagined Atlas,235Struggling under it with puny legs and arms, Groaning out incoherent complaints at his load.
My son, this is no time nor place for a poet; Grow up and join the big, busy crowd That scrambles for what it thinks it wants40Out of this old world which is—as it is— And, probably, always will be.
Take the advice of a father who knows: You cannot begin too young Not to be a poet.