The Leaf and the Tree
Read the following poem carefully before you choose your answers.
The following poem was first published in 1934.
The Leaf and the Tree
When will you learn, my self, to be
A dying leaf on a living tree?
Budding, swelling, growing strong,
Wearing green, but not for long, 5
Drawing sustenance from air,
That other leaves, and you not there,
May bud, and at the autumn’s call
Wearing russet, ready to fall?
Has not this trunk a deed to do 10
Unguessed by small and tremulous you?
Shall not these branches in the end
To wisdom and the truth ascend?
And the great lightning plunging by
Look sidewise with a golden eye 15
To glimpse a tree so tall and proud
It sheds its leaves upon a cloud?
Here, I think, is the heart’s grief:
The tree, no mightier than the leaf,
Makes firm its root and spreads its crown 20
And stands; but in the end comes down.
That airy top no boy could climb
Is trodden in a little time
By cattle on their way to drink.
The fluttering thoughts a leaf can think, 25
That hears the wind and waits its turn,
Have taught it all a tree can learn.
Time can make soft that iron wood.
The tallest trunk that ever stood,
In time, without a dream to keep, 30
Crawls in beside the root to sleep.
Which word describes the overall mood of the poem “The Leaf and The Tree” by Edna St. Vincent Millay?
A. Joyful, Happy
B. Hopeful, Goal Oriented
C. Frustrating, Angry
D. Contemplative, Time Conscious
The poem entitled “The Leaf and The Tree” by Millay primarily uses which of the following literary terms?
Which of the following characterizes the poetic structure of the poem?
four stanzas of inconsistent length made up of rhyming couplets and unstructured metric pattern
four stanzas of non-rhyming quatrains with slant rhyme throughout
an ode with a clear sestet and octave characterized by regular rhyme and metric pattern
four consistently structured stanzas of internal and external slant rhyme and consistent metric pattern
For the speaker, the “airy top” (line 21) of the tree symbolizes which of the following?
The peak of human knowledge
The end of human existence
The permanence of human achievement
The elite in human society
The possibility of human transcendence
In context, the final line of the poem (“Crawls . . . sleep”) most plausibly suggests both the
value of companionship and the solitude of death
inevitability of sin and the possibility of redemption
necessity for dreams and the danger of illusions
hope for growth and the inescapable nature of origins
finality of death and the cyclical nature of life
The images used throughout the first stanza (lines 1-8) function collectively as an illustration of the
hierarchical differences between leaves and trees
effects of nature on an individual
joys of seasonal renewal
cyclical nature of life
difficulty of achieving change
In context, lines 15-16 (“To glimpse . . . cloud”) use metaphor to suggest the
A inevitable decline that individuals suffer over time
B potential greatness of human achievement
C impossibility of avoiding one’s personal destiny
D loss of innocence that is part of aging
E universality of a certain set of feelings
Unlike the first two stanzas, the third stanza is composed of statements rather than questions, marking a turn from an
A awareness of individual insignificance to a call for human transcendence
B acknowledgment of a personal shortcoming to the achievement of a higher purpose
C expression of individual modesty to the assertion of a truth about impermanence
D admission of human frailty to a celebration of nature’s ultimate resilience
E attack on human egoism to a celebration of nature’s indifference
The paradoxical assertion that the tree is “no mightier than the leaf” (line 18) suggests that the tree
A has no more impact on humans than does the leaf
B is made up of the same elements as the leaf is
C grows in the same fashion as the leaf
D will meet the same fate as the leaf
E is not in direct competition with the leaf
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