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Subject Test Literature

Question 20 of 23

beginning of content:


Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,

Fenc’d by these rebel pow’rs that thee array,

Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,

Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?

Why so large cost, having so short a lease,

Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?

Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,

Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?

Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,

And let that pine to aggravate thy store;

Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;

Within be fed, without be rich no more:

     So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,

     And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.


Select an Answer

The dramatic situation in the poem is that of

a youth speaking to a lover

Correct Answer: 

a priest speaking to a sinner

Correct Answer: 

a reformer addressing an impoverished person

Correct Answer: 

God addressing any human soul

Correct Answer: 

an individual addressing his or her own soul

Correct Answer: 

Choice (E) is correct. Beginning in line 1, the speaker directly addresses his or her soul: “Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth” (“earth” means “body,” as the following lines make clear). Throughout the rest of the poem, the speaker discusses the relationship between his or her soul and physical body. When the speaker refers to “thy outward walls,” “thy fading mansion,” “thy charge,” and so on, he or she is referring to the body, which will ultimately die and be eaten by worms (“Shall worms, inheritors of this excess/Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?”). The message of the poem is that the (inner) soul should stop worrying about the (outer) body and should essentially let the body wither and die, knowing that the soul is all that matters in the afterlife (“Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss”). The dramatic situation of the poem is that of an individual—the speaker—addressing his or her own soul.

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