Another Essay Prompt Headed to Retirement

[This post and the one to follow contain high school essay prompts ready to be retired for awhile from my teaching. While they were a good fit for my seniors, they seem less appropriate for my ninth graders.  The first is a poetry prompt from a final exam.]  


Poetry Essay.  Respond to the following.  Take your time to plan, allowing approximately forty minutes for this essay.  Remember: what matters is not only what you say but also how well you say it.  (100 points or 25% of the exam grade).

Read the two poems on the next page.  Both William Blake (“To the Evening Star”) and John Keats (“Bright Star”) address their poems to stars.  Compare and contrast each author’s purpose in using the image of a star.  How does the imagery used in each poem help achieve that purpose?  In what ways are their intentions the same, and in what ways are they different?  Make use of the language of poetic analysis in your response—i.e., imagery, tone, figurative language, symbolism, etc.  Be observant, specific and articulate.

Bright Star!

BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art—

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

John Keats

To the Evening Star

THOU fair-hair’d angel of the evening,

Now, while the sun rests on the mountains, light

Thy bright torch of love; thy radient crown

Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!

Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest the

Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew

On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes,

In timely sleep.  Let thy west wind sleep on

The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,

And wash the dusk with silver.  Soon, full soon,

Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,

And the lion glares thro’ the dun forest:

The fleeces of our flocks are cover’d with

Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence. *

William Blake

*In astrology, the effect that heavenly bodies exert on earthly things and creatures

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