AS-Level – Songs of Ourselves – Volume 1, Part 1 (Poems from the 16th and Early 17th Centuries)

There are 36 poems that make up the first part of CIE’s poetry anthology, which may seem a little overwhelming at first, but never fear; if you’re organised and understand the types of questions that are going to be on the exam then you’ll be fine (see Poetry Exam Tips).

Follow each of the links for the poem + my analysis. You may also find my Comparison Grid a useful way of linking poems for the comparison essay.

I’ve tried to be extremely thorough and have broken down my analysis into different elements you’re expected to be able to discuss:

Click here for Analysis Breakdown

If you want to try a mock exam paper, click here. This is for the whole of Paper 3: Poetry and Prose with Half of a Yellow Sun and Songs of Ourselves.

1. Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover?
2. What Thing is Love?
3. Sonnet 11 (Lady Mary Wroth)
Comparison essay – ‘What Thing is Love?’ vs. ‘Sonnet 11′ (Wroth)

4. Sigh No More, Ladies
5. Weep You No More, Sad Fountains
6. When I Was Fair And Young
Extract Essay

7. They Flee From Me, That Sometime Did Me Seek
8. Sonnet 61 (Michael Drayton)
9. Go, Lovely Rose
10. No Crookèd Leg, No Blearèd Eye
11. Sonnet 31 (Sir Philip Sidney)
Pupil analysis (Kudzai Mhangwa)

12. Written The Night Before His Execution
Pupil Powerpoint (Natasha Twebaze)

13. The Author’s Epitaph, Made By Himself
14. A Litany In Time Of Plague
15. Sonnet 19 (Lady Mary Wroth)
16. From Underwoods
17. Fear No More The Heat O’ Th’ Sun
Pupil Powerpoint (Haimanot Yohannes)
Extract essay

18. A Song

19. Walsingham
20. The Flowers That On The Banks And Walks Did Grow
Pupil Prezi (Navya Garikapati)
Pupil analysis (Vishal  Nagda)

21. Come Live with me, and be my Love
Pupil analysis (Kudzai Mhangwa)

22. Sonnet 54 (Edmund Spenser)
23. What is Our Life?
Pupil analysis (Tehreem Khan)

24. Sonnet 75 (Edmund Spenser)
25. Spring, The Sweet Spring
Powerpoint presentation

26. Sonnet 18 (William Shakespeare)
27. Sonnet 73 (William Shakespeare)
Powerpoint presentation

28. Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind
Powerpoint presentation

29. The Procession of The Seasons
Pupil analysis (Amna Khalili)

30. The Man of Life Upright
31. A Mind Content
Pupil analysis (Vishal Nagda)

32. I Grieve, and Dare Not Show my Discontent
33. To Celia
34. Golden Slumbers
35. Full Fathom Five
36. A Farewell To The Reader

81 thoughts on “AS-Level – Songs of Ourselves – Volume 1, Part 1 (Poems from the 16th and Early 17th Centuries)

  1. Hi Mr Sir
    I would like to thank you for analyzing these poems into such detail. I have recently dropped out of school and have decided to self study in order to finish my AS levels one year earlier. So I will be finishing in grade 11 and this would not be possible without your help. Thank you so much, your efforts are really appreciated!

    Thank you, all the way from South Africa

    • Hi Hannah,

      Glad to hear I have been some help, please get in contact if you want any specific help or questions answered and I will do my best.

      Best of luck with your self study, stay motivated and on top of everything!

      Mr Sir

  2. As a general rule is it correct that in literature poetry essays you’re not supposed to refer to the speaker as “poet” and instead as persona?
    Are we allowed to say poet at all?

    • Ummm, it depends. You can refer to the poet in terms of how they are creating meaning with language/techniques, but if referring to something happening to the person within the poem then I always use the term ‘the poetic voice’. In truth it won’t make a huge amount of difference.

    • You genius! Well done and congratulations!

      I am sure you’re buzzing now, but don’t lose track of the end game and make sure you convert that into an A or A* in your A2 exams.


      Mr Sir

      PS – Are you another RISU student? We had a very clever girl by the same name.

  3. Dear Mr.Sir,
    First off, I owe my A* in O’level English Literature to you. You are a blessing to Lit students.
    I’m now doing AS Level Literature in English and most of my exam prep will consist of self-studying, so it goes without saying how invaluable this website is to me, so thanks a HEAP!
    Because my exam prep will mainly be self-studying, I have to bring this up. In one of your comments, you mentioned, I quote: “However, maybe there will be some kind souls who want to submit their work and then I can share it and add my own comments.”
    I was wondering if I might be able to submit analyses for checking. I understand that you have a full time job, so it’s perfectly fine if you aren’t up for it, but if you are, I would be immensely grateful. I’m not sure if this is getting posted XD

    • Sorry, I don’t know why I didn’t reply to this at the time!

      Well done on your A*, but give yourself some credit as essay writing is the key skill you need to achieve top grades; my analysis is the easy bit that just helps you develop an initial understanding.

      Happy to check through as long as you are happy to be publicly critiqued. I’ve sent you an email, which might be an easier way to submit some work to me.


      Mr Sir

  4. Dear Mr. Sir,
    You have been a blessing for me and my fellow Literature classmates. We are from an international school in Portugal, and coming across your website has made all of our lives a little bit easier. Even my teacher loves your work, and I quote what she said when she first showed us your website: “His analysis are spot on!” . In every lesson (I’m not exaggerating) we end up cracking a joke about your analysis and just praising you in general and admiring your ability to make this heavy content light. THANK YOU FOR MAKING POETRY FUN! It’s incredible how a positive outlook on poetry can make lessons exciting, and I am sure it will reflect on our AS grades this year.
    Thank you for your dedication and work, it really has helped us.

    • No, sorry. I originally set out to create notes for every aspect of Literature exams, but quickly found myself unable to keep up with the targets I’d set myself. For now it’s just poetry.

  5. Hi, Mr Sir, (have you just come from Camp Green Lake by any chance?)

    I’m a lit student from Malaysia, and I found your notes invaluable in understanding poetry, (I love it when a teacher can take himself lightly and crack jokes) and I especially value the student essays and your own extract essays as they help me understand what to write and what not to write. If it’s not too much trouble, I hope that you can continue to post these example essays guiding us through the process of essay writing 🙂


    • Hi there,

      No, not me from Camp Green Lake, sorry.

      Glad to hear that you’re finding the site useful. Unfortunately the essays are going to be in short supply this year as I am not teaching Literature this year (I’ve moved to a new school where they only have Year 7 and 8 so far, so no one is ready for it :() I may do a couple of my own, but I can’t make promises.

      However, maybe there will be some kind souls who want to submit their work and then I can share it and add my own comments. If you are willing, I’d be happy to share your work and make suggestions/helpful comments.


      Mr Sir

    • All in good time! I’m half way through my third post, so it’s not going to be up until probably two or three weeks.

  6. “othello ” is full of of highly interesting evil, an evil almost attractive in its energy and intensity. Discuss

    can someone help me with this?

  7. Thank you so much for your Songs of Ourselves poem analysis! This helped immensely in my last minute cram session before my Paper 3 exam tomorrow. 🙂

  8. Hey,
    Just wanted to say, I self-studied IGCSE Lit and am currently self-studying AS Lit, and your notes have been lifesavers! For someone who doesn’t have a teacher, they were invaluable: they showed me exactly what I had to look for and helped me learn to do my own analysis. Somehow I got an A* at IGCSE and I think I owe all my poetry marks to you!
    So thank you for all the effort you put into the site. You must be an amazing teacher and your students are very lucky 🙂

  9. Mr. Sir, you’ve seriously helped me out! My teacher isn’t exactly the best and I wouldn’t feel half as prepared without this website. I’d like to thank you for your efforts, honestly, I appreciate it so much!

  10. umm I asked a question on the post ‘when i was fair and young’ and two questions on the ‘extract essay’ which follows and this was perhaps in December……. I am still waiting for an answer:P

  11. There’s this thing which is bugging me badly that in the second type of question i.e. the thematic one is it that we can have ANY two poems portraying the same theme (provided it’s not mentioned: of the same poet) what I m really concerned about is if the examiner has a pre-decided choice of two poems and my choice is different from theres…will they deduct marks for that?

    • Well, it could happen. They are usually kind and give you a free choice, but I can’t guarantee it. Worst case scenario, you still have the extract poem that is printed on the paper and you should be able to analyse. If you answered a question using poems other than those stated, I would imagine they’d give you a 0 or close to 0.

  12. thank you so much for all the help!
    so I was reading the criteria for examination of the answers on the CIE website and one part of it said personal response,I don’t quite understand what that exactly entails like do I say “I relate to this poem because of……”,can you give an example of how to go about with it?

    • Personal response is an odd thing. As long as you are expressing your ideas about the poem then you really are filling the criteria. I’ve heard that some teachers actively discourage saying ‘I think…’. However, I’d make sure you explain how you interpret the poem and where you see significance and you should be fine.

      In ‘Sonnet 11’ Wroth communicates the huge power of love through demonstrating the devastation it can cause. When she describes her ‘endless torment’ she is acknowledging how love can torture and abuse its victims, while as a result of this presenting it is a hugely powerful emotion. The reader should also understand that love has clearly had a hugely positive impact as she reveals the extend of her feelings and emotional exposure that could only have been possible if this love had completely consumed her life.

      (This is clearly a personal response; it is driven from the individual’s understanding, but is presented analytically and focuses on the question – I know I haven’t written a question, but let’s pretend there was one about how she presents human emotion or something like that)

      Hope this helps and good luck!

      • that was a lot of help,thanks one again!
        btw do you any good sites which are doing something similar to what you do for short stories and who’s afraid of virgina woolf?

      • Nope, not come across any, but I haven’t particularly looked to be honest. I can ask my kids and see if they’ve found anything useful.

  13. I was wondering if we can include the relevance of the title in our answers cause you don’t focus that much on it in the analysis of the poem,so is it a good idea to discuss this point?

    • Yeah, absolutely. Obviously it depends on the poem and sometimes the title is really an approximation of an idea within the poem rather than anything separate, but when it isn’t then it is definitely worth analysing.

      • thanks 😀
        I was wondering is there any way to remember all this stuff well,cause for example you cannot attempt the text based question in the exam and decide to the other one but then there are 36 poems very similar to each other,it’s very easy to get them muddled up specially the example or reference bit of it in the answer and you might end up quoting the wrong poem or a wrong verse,any tips on that?
        and also how is alliteration use to depict emotions or themes in a poem,I get the repetition of the sound but how do you link it to your answer?

      • I’ve advised people to take on two poems for each key theme (see my comparison chart page) as that way there is less information to store. This should make it easier to recall quotations accurately and there is usually (almost always) a free choice comparison question and therefore you do not get screwed over by questions (I stress that this is not a guarantee). If you get a quotation slightly wrong, no one will notice or penalise you; however, obviously if you are quoting from multiple different poems inaccurately then it becomes a bit problematic.

        In terms of alliteration, I’d discuss it whenever it is really relevant. Does it play a key role in the poem? If so, talk about what it does and how it is significant. E.g. alliteration of the harsh ‘s’ sounds lends the poem an aggressive and spiteful tone. — As opposed to: Here the poet uses alliteration, which is nice.

        Hope this helps!

    • Hey! I am also in search for sites which have notes for short stories and who’s afraid of virginia woolf. I found some very useful stuff for who’s afraid of virginia woolf on sparknotes…u may check it out too:)

  14. i am from very tiny island & am one of the few students chosen to do literature as & a2. we have only one teacher & these notes, just a month away from my exams, stand as true life savers. God bless you Mr Sir! cheers x

    • Which tiny island? Glad the notes are helping, please feel free to ask any questions if you’re struggling with anything. 😀

  15. Thank you so so so much for all the analysis!! I’m doing my AS exam in a couple of weeks, and you just about saved my life! I’m a sucker for extra information, and I absolutely LOVE the background information and all! Your analysis for the poems are just about perfect. So really, thank you 🙂

  16. very helpful stuff! If you find time please do a brief analysis on the short stories of the AS course. This notes have been lifesavers 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, but very unlikely I will cover anything other than what my kids are doing for the moment, sorry!

  17. Though the analyses of the poems helped me great deal, I have noticed many spelling and grammar mistakes in them. Are you truly an English teacher? If a sixteen year-old, who’s first language isn’t English, can correct you, maybe you should double-check your writings before posting them. Other than that, this is a great site!

    • Yeah there are bound to be a hundred errors and I don’t really stop and check them. I am indeed an English teacher and have a first class degree and a distinction at masters level, but everyone makes mistakes. Also, I’m often writing these between lessons or with limited time and therefore don’t bother with checking; generally I type straight into the posting box thing (technical term there) and then you can only see the paragraph you are currently writing. There are also something like 100,000 words in all my pieces of analysis and I would never be bothered to read through all of it. However, if you want to tell me where I am in error so I can quickly go back and edit, then by all means please do so.

  18. Great site! I am a teacher for Literature and I have always used your notes for reference. I like your relaxed way of looking at issues. I love backgrounds as well because they make the poem easy to understand. I am shocked by that guy who disregards the background info and wants to just recite techniques! Poetry is meant to be enjoyed and my students are always eager to know what the poets have been up to! True you don’t use them in exams but where is the harm in knowing their dark secrets? Great job may you get more summer holidays than there is in a year!

    • Thanks, more holidays would be great. Completely agree with you regarding context, but in AS and A2 there is quite a bit of room for using contextual understanding within essays as well as just using it to help understand the themes of the poem – for instance, understanding the values of a time period or the reason the poet felt moved to write the poem. The mark scheme even says that there should be some awareness of context the poem was written in for the top two bands. Rant over and comment appreciated!

  19. this site is awesome! way better than sparknotes and shmoop. Your analysis is simple(very easy to understand) but quite thorough…

  20. This is an awesome resource for teachers! Thanks so much for your hard work. In reading the comments, I see that in the future you may begin charging for the information. I would gladly pay. The Cambridge Program is extremely new to our school (we’re in our second year), and this is the first time I have taught the lit. portion. I am struggling a bit on teaching what exactly to analyze in the prose section. I really like how you gave the list in the analysis breakdown above, and I would so appreciate a similar list for analyzing prose. I am sure you will get right on that in all of your upcoming, spare holiday time: said, of course, tongue-in-cheek. Thanks again for the site. I’ll now await any snarky comment you may have.

    • Thanks for commenting. I don’t think I’ll be charging for what is already up, but maybe just a $1 to download it all and save having to click through or whatever. You might have to wait awhile with the prose as the poetry is my priority, but I may get round to it at some point.

  21. I’m sorry, where can I get access to the comparison chart? It seems like it’s supposed to be hyperlinked but clicking it gets me nowhere and I’d really like to see it! Thanks in advance, great job!

    • Ah, sorry I haven’t got around to it yet (really should and have had that false link there for too long). Will see if I can put something up in the next week or so.

  22. Wow. That was mean. I paid the money and like those notes. The information you give on your site is GREAT, you obviously put alot of work into it. But its hard to maneuver because I have to read so much to get to the points I need for my essays. You give backgrounds to the poets, although interesting, my teacher says are unnecessary for the poetry section. YOu also give your opinion a lot of the time. I can’t use this either. The one I paid for lists techniques and effects, and I can easily/quickly pick and choose what I need. Could you do this with the information on your site? Maybe just summarise the main points for each poem? That would be helpful.

    • Yeah possibly was a bit mean, I suppose if you find it worthwhile then it’s worth the money. I don’t want to spot techniques on this website because in your exam you’re really meant to develop personal responses and explore ideas, which means telling me there is this that or the other doesn’t earn you any marks. Anyway, each to his own, apologies for the bluntness it must mean it’s getting close to half term and I need a holiday! 🙂

    • I hope this isn’t just a plug? Anyway, I’ll allow it, but it would be nice to see what is on offer for $5. I’m planning on putting a PDF up for each section when they are complete for $1 as I appreciate some people just want to print out and never look back.

      Any suggestions about how I could improve maneuverability?

      • In fact, I’ve just had a gander and think that is an absolutely scandalous rip off! Those notes (if Sonnet 11 is anything to go by) are really limited and unhelpful, but each to their own.

    • Umm… hi… It’ll get done in due time, but I have a full time job and life. I don’t get paid for this you know.

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