Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Unit 44 – A Short Poem About Leaving

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 1 minute 30 seconds

Below is a short poem by Irish poet, John Montague


No Music

I’ll tell you a sore truth, little understood
It’s harder to leave, than to be left:
To stay, to leave, both sting wrong.

You will always have me to blame,
Can dream we might have sailed on;
From absence’s rib, a warm fiction.

To tear up old love by the roots,
To trample on past affections:
There is no music for so harsh a song.


1. The above poem implies a number of reasons why it is harder for someone to leave than to be left. Which of the following does the poem not imply about the one who is leaving?

  • A      They will have nobody to blame for their actions
  • B      They might regret their choice, rather than being the subject of someone else’s
  • C      They will deprive themselves of idyllic daydreams
  • D      There exists plenty of songs about being left, but no music which empathises with the one who is leaves


Each Section 1 GAMSAT paper ACER produces tends to have one or two of these one-question long units thrown in among long 7-11 question units.  They only take a minute to answer, but sometimes they can be quite challenging, and if you’re not disciplined with your time management you can end up spending too long contemplating them. Don’t get caught out… make sure you’ve done as many full length practice papers as you can to prepare yourself before the big day

  • Answer:
    Q1: B
    I’ll explain the answer by process of elimination:

    The poem is about the ending of a romantic relationship. All the evidence suggests that the poet is the one who has instigated the separation. He says to his just-dumped partner, they will always have him to blame (from which we infer A, that he can only blame himself. He has nobody else to blame). She can also ‘dream we might have sailed on’ . She can dream about what might have been, but the poet has no such luxury because he ended it. It was out of her hands to influence the course of events, but very much in his power. ‘From absence’s rib, a warm fiction” is a reference to how memories can grow fonder/warmer the further removed from them we are. The final stanza of the poem clearly expresses option D.
    This leaves B. At no point does the poet suggest that he will regret his actions.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    June 26, 2012

  • Of course in the answer, you’re assuming the poet is male, and the dumpee is female! No such gender sterotyping is inferred in the poem.

    Sylvia Giles

    June 26, 2012

  • Very true, Sylvia! I was careful not to impose any such stereotypes in the question itself for exactly that reason. The assumption I made in writing up the analysis was that the poet was writing from the point of view of himself. Himself being John Montague who was married to three different women during his lifetime (perhaps the poem was written at the end of his relationship with one of them?). Of course, there’s no reason why he couldn’t have been writing from the point of view of someone else with a different orientation.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    June 26, 2012

  • Oh, of course! I actually skimmed past the italics – an important lesson in reading the question : )

    Sylvia Giles

    June 28, 2012

Leave a comment  




Submit comment