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Question 18 of 23

beginning of content:


One summer evening (led by her)1 I found

A little boat tied to a willow tree

Within a rocky cave, its usual home.

Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in

Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth

And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice

Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;

Leaving behind her still, on either side,

Small circles glittering idly in the moon,

Until they melted all into one track

Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,

Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point

With an unswerving line, I fixed my view

Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,

The horizon’s utmost boundary; for above

Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.

She was an elfin pinnance;2 lustily

I dipped my oars into the silent lake,

And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat

Went heaving through the water like a swan;

When, from behind that craggy steep till then

The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,

As if with voluntary power instinct

Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,

And growing still in stature the grim shape

Towered up between me and the stars, and still,

For so it seemed, with purpose of its own

And measured motion like a living thing,

Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,

And through the silent water stole my way

Back to the covert of the willow tree;

There in her mooring-place I left my bark, —

And through the meadows homeward went, in grave

And serious mood; but after I had seen

That spectacle, for many days, my brain

Worked with a dim and undetermined sense

Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts

There hung a darkness, call it solitude

Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes

Remained, no pleasant images of trees,

Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;

But huge and mighty forms, that do not live

Like living men, moved slowly through the mind

By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.



1. Nature.

2. A boat.


Select an Answer

At the conclusion of the excerpt, the “huge peak” (line 22) seems to represent which of the following for the speaker?

An emblem of the beauty of the natural world

Correct Answer: 

A figure of undefined and unsettling significance

Correct Answer: 

An allegorical representation of sin itself

Correct Answer: 

A curious natural phenomenon

Correct Answer: 

A trivial figment of the speaker’s imagination

Correct Answer: 

Choice (B) is correct. The poem tells the story of events that began when the speaker “found/A little boat” and decided to take it out on the water. Feeling exhilarated, the speaker suddenly saw “a huge peak, black and huge,” a “grim shape” that seemingly “Strode after” him or her. The speaker then guiltily turned “Back to the covert of the willow tree,” after which “for many days . . . o’er my thoughts /There hung a darkness.” The speaker is awed by the fact that nature seemed to see the theft of the boat and, in the form of the “huge peak,” threaten the speaker in some profound but unclear way (“my brain/Worked with a dim and undetermined sense/Of unknown modes of being”). The speaker knows that the experience with the peak was significant, and scary, but he or she is unable to trace all the implications of what happened. The speaker seems to feel that the peak is a figure of undefined and unsettling significance.

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