Comparison Chart

Long awaited and long overdue! Hopefully it is not a let down 🙁

You shouldn’t expect miracles, let me explain what I have included and why. Firstly this is meant to give you a nice overview of all the poems and secondly begin to get you thinking about which poems you would compare and why. Comparison questions are usually focused thematically so I have created a colour-coded comparison suggestion for each poem (often two or three if the poem links to multiple themes).

I’ve identified four major themes running through this collection. By ensuring you are confident talking about two poems in relation to each of these themes you should be preparing yourself for almost any conceivable comparison question.

The themes are:

Identity – thinking about who we are, our significance in the world.
Nature vs. mankind – the conflict between the natural world and human development.
Beauty of Imperfection – celebrating the less celebrated.
Religion – linking to ideas of faith and devotion.

I only mention one other theme: Love, but I don’t think it is a major one. I might prepare for it, but only because I adore the two poems that explore the theme.

Don’t take my suggestions as gospel, but rather as suggestions! My advice would be to pick two poems that tackle each of these key themes and revise them extensively so that you will be able to answer a related question with a few key quotations from each and an understanding of their similarities and differences. For my personal favourites for each theme, see below the chart.

Title

Themes Summary

Link to…

1. A Different History

Identity, Nature vs. mankind

This poem is autobiographical and is an expression of Bhatt’s conflict between her Indian heritage and her life in the English speaking world.

The first stanza talks about India; she values the way gods and nature are respected and allowed to thrive, but contrasts this, quite angrily, with the way society and religion are too rigid and enforce too many rules upon the Indian people. The second stanza sees her talking about her inner conflict about enjoying being part of English speaking culture.

Where I Come From
The Planners
2. Pied Beauty

Beauty of imperfection, Religion

A poem or a prayer? No, a bit of both. Hopkins is praising God for creating things that are not usually praised. It is a bit like the song All Things Bright and Beautiful. Things that are perfect or flawless tend to get a lot of attention, but Hopkins seems to think everything that God has created is deserving of praise.

Hunting Snake
A Birthday
3. Continuum Nature vs. mankind This is a poem all about writing a poem and overcoming writer’s block. Curnow is searching for inspiration and finds it in nature and the weather, but uses some stunning/confusing metaphors to explain to us. The Woodspurge
4. Horses Nature vs. mankind, Beauty of imperfection

I think this poem is similar to Hunting Snake and Pike in that we are glorifying the majesty of one of god’s creatures, but also appreciating its power and thus implied threat. However, I see it as having a much deeper meaning under the surface.

It seems to me that the poem yearns for a more simple past and laments the fact that the world has had to change and the demands from industry have outstripped these proud beasts (… the horses).

Pike

The Planners

5. Hunting Snake Beauty of imperfection This poem is an appreciation of the brilliance of nature and the natural world. A person is walking through the countryside and freezes when they see a snake. There is a sense of dread about the inherent danger of a snake, but the walker is also struck by its beauty and is torn between this idea of threat and the nobility and splendour of  the creature. Hunting Snake
6. Pike Beauty of imperfection, Nature vs. mankind Hughes examines the hideous predators of the pond, pikes, and admires how wonderfully evolved they are for their purpose and presents a picture of contrast between his idea of the danger they pose and its inherent perfection. In addition, he explores how their history, evolution and domination of their environment make humanity seem insignificant. Horses
Hunting Snake
7. A Birthday Religion, Love

This is not actually a celebration of a birthday with a cake and party poppers. Rossetti feels like it is the day she has been reborn or got the biggest present of all as a result of finding love. This poem reads as if Rossetti is singing for joy, she wants the whole world to know just how glad she is. This birthday is also synonymous with the day she has met/found the love of her life – Jesus/a chap/her new born baby? You decide.

The Woodspurge
The Woodspurge
8. The Woodspurge Love, ReligionBeauty of imperfection, Nature vs. mankind This begins as a really sad poem about someone at the height of their misery or melancholy. Lacking any kind of direction, the poet allows himself to be led by the wind until it abated and then he sits with his head between his knees in complete despair for some time. At the height of his misery he finds hope in a weed: either the brilliance and beauty of nature or perhaps representing faith. A Birthday
A Birthday
Pied Beauty
Continuum
9. The Cockroach Nature vs. mankind, Identity Who is the cockroach? Kevin Halligan is the cockroach; this poem follows the idle contemplation of the life of a cockroach, which at first seems to have some sort of direction, but then the cockroach seems to be considerably distressed by its own aimlessness. Halligan recognises this in his own life. Pike
Summer Farm
10. The City Planners Nature vs. mankind, Beauty of imperfection Atwood is getting angry about the way the world is being solely deprived of its individuality in favour of taming nature through uniformity of design and construction. Composed Upon Westminster Bridge/The Planners
Pied Beauty
11. The Planners Nature vs. mankind, Beauty of imperfection, Identity Boey Cheng shares Atwood’s frustration at the onslaught of planners and their need for ‘perfection’, which resembles conformity and uniformity. However, he seems to lack the anger and fight of Atwood, but to be in a melancholy state of acceptance of the changes to the world. Composed Upon Westminster Bridge/The City Planners
Pied Beauty
A Different History
12. Summer Farm Identity, Nature vs. mankind I would argue this poem is a style of pastoral poetry, which celebrates the peace and quiet of the rural world (here presented from the perspective of life on a farm). Not only that, but we see how this peace allows the poetic voice to contemplate his existence and think philosophically about our importance and how small a part of the universe, the earth and life we represent. The Cockroach
Where I Come From
13. Where I Come From Identity, Nature vs. mankind, Beauty of imperfection Although at first glance you might take it to be about the difference between urban and rural existence, the clue is in the first line: her descriptions are representing people and thus she uses pathetic fallacy to explore humanity. She is trying to draw a contrast between the beautiful simplicity and joy of life outside of the city and the more ordered and confined life within it. I’d also argue this poem contains a generally comment about the urbanisation of the world in Brewster’s lifetime and her distaste for it. A Different History/The Planners
Summer Farm
14. Composed Upon Westminster Bridge Nature vs. mankind (with mankind) This poem is all about nature and man-made structures complimenting each others beauty. The busiest city in Wordsworth’s world, London, sleeps and wears the beauty of the morning. The City Planners

My Personal Choices

IdentityThe Cockroach and A Different History – both poems tackle a problem with identity with Halligan not sure of where he is going or the point of his life, while Bhatt feels guilty for the duality of her identity/nationality.
Nature vs. mankindComposed Upon Westminster Bridge and The City Planners – complete contrast here, Wordsworth celebrates the beauty of human construction and nature complimenting each other, while Atwood is an angry lady and sees change and development as destructive and as having a false sense of beauty in cleanliness.
Beauty of Imperfection – Pied Beauty and Hunting Snake – both praise something normally not appreciated, but one relates this very clearly to the brilliance of God, while the other recognises how danger and beauty are not mutually exclusive.
Religion – Pied Beauty and A Birthday – Hopkins celebrates all God’s creations, while Rossetti feels reborn when she devotes herself to her faith.

iGCSE Comparison Chart

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  1. Dear Mr Sir
    I’m so happy I found your page and have enough time to stalk it while studying for my IGCSE…. Could it be possible for you to upload tris comparison chart as a word document or something like that to download? Thank you very much for your help!!!

    • Yeah, good idea. I’ve done it quickly and there are some formatting issues here, but nothing major. If it bothers you and you decide to sort it out can you post it back here for others please. I’ve sent it to you on email and added it to the page.

      Glad the site is helping!