iGCSE – Songs of Ourselves – Volume 1, Part 4 (Poems from the 19th & 20th Centuries (I)

There are 36 poems that make up this section of the Songs of Ourselves anthology, but the good news is that you only have 14 to study. This may still seem like a lot, but if you consider how many pages, characters and themes each of your dramas and your novel have, then you should be grateful for how little poetry you have to study.

Your first task is getting your head round what a poem means. If you understand the main content of a poem you can usually piece together the significance of language, techniques or the structure of a poem.

Follow each of the links for the poem + my analysis. You may also find my Comparison Chart a useful way of linking poems for the comparison essay. At the bottom of the page I’ve included a downloadable copy of my notes on each poem, but it can be a little confusing to see where each of my points relates to… blame MS Word for that not me! Underneath this is a document containing questions designed to make you probe a number of the poems effectively. Also, here is an example of one of my student’s revision booklets (Navya Garikapati) that might give you some ideas about how to organise your notes.

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


110. A Different History
111. Pied Beauty
112. Continuum
113. Horses
114. Hunting Snake
115. Pike
116. A Birthday

117. The Woodspurge
118. The Cockroach
119. The City Planners
120. The Planners
121. Summer Farm
122. Where I Come From
123. Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

Extract Essay

Comparison Chart


Songs of Ourselves – Part 4 – Teacher’s Notes

38 thoughts on “iGCSE – Songs of Ourselves – Volume 1, Part 4 (Poems from the 19th & 20th Centuries (I)

  1. hey guys i have a tip do it yourself loljust kidding u can watch videos about it u know just tryin to help

  2. OMG !I’m a student at rainbow international school Uganda ! I’m guessing you were one of the English teachers here. I thank you immensely for the great analysis of all these poems that have helped me so much! i was just hoping you would analyse dramas ( Merchant of Venice )and prose ( No longer at ease )as well. Thank you !

    • I never taught you, but I do remember you! I was the big tall one who used to walk around as if he owned the place and was married to your PE teacher. Not Mildred… no further comment.

      Unfortunately I’m never going to get round to analysing the other texts, but hopefully my notes on poetry help.

      Hope it is all going well at Rainbow and say hi to everyone for me! 🙂

  3. Ti have exam tomorrow and I wish I had found this website a month before . I just hope that I’ll be able to pass my exams. Can you please tell me the basic structure of an exam essay?

    • Intro – 1. key words from question 2. signpost (introduce techniques) 3. thesis (statement summarising what they essay is about basically)
      Body 1: Point, Quote, Comment, Link
      Body 2: same as above
      Body 3: same as above
      Conclusion: re-state thesis, summarise essay.

    • Probably too late now, but…

      Intro – answer the question directly and explain briefly the key aspects you will focus on.
      Each subsequent paragraph should take us through the poem’s key landmarks and explore the significance of any language, techniques or structural elements of interest/relevance to the question.
      Conclusion – briefly recap the main points and reanswer the question.

      I will create a post about this in future, but it is a little bit difficult without a specific question to provide a decent explanation.

      GOod luck,

      Mr Sir

      • Which points?

        No, you can’t answer any question of your choice. Usually there are options and you have to choose; however, there is usually at least one question that allows you to pick which poems you want to answer the question with.

        A few things have changed though at iGCSE and I need to check on this before giving you my full advice.

  4. Thanks for the site. It has helped me do some last minute revision, only I wish I had found it sooner!!!

  5. Dear Sir
    firstly I would just like to thank you for your analysis on the poems as these have been very useful in my revision. Also, my teachers have been using it to explain the poems to us! However, one thing that I am unsure about is the length of the answer -please could you give recommendations for this – i am aiming for a star. My exam is tomorrow so any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Many thanks

    • Sorry, this was flagged as spam initially. I know I am too late now, but let me respond anyway. Length is not particularly important as your work is marked on the quality of your analysis. That said, you need to be writing at least 1 1/2 pages in the time, but a two page essay is often better than a five pager, I find.

  6. Thank you for your comprehensive notes and explanations on all the poems!!

    You have helped me greatly, especially with Continuum (which I didn’t like at all before). Now I actually understand what’s going on and can relate it to questions,

  7. Hi
    This has been really useful for going through 2 days before my exam (!) and I just wanted to let you know how much of a help this clear analysis has been

    • Not an error, I am trying to get around to it, but Switzerland and my ski trip was more action packed than I imagined. I will pop you an email when it is up.

    • It’s my last one and I am dreading it. I was supposed to do it today, but life happened. Should be up by the end of the day tomorrow.

    • Nope, I’ve not had an iGCSE class this year. Will probably get round to it, but for next year’s cohort, not this.

  8. I couldn’t link to your comparison chart – could you possibly send it to me for this collection of poems, I’m sure it will be excellent and I am trying to help my son with his upcoming GCSEs, having myself loved poetry.

    • It’s not quite done, hopefully by the end of the week. I’ll post it and drop you an email to let you know.

  9. I am a Lit Teacher andI would like to find the notes on the 14 set poems from Songs of Ourselves Volume 2, part 1. I will use them with my students this year.
    Thank you!

    • Hi, they are not going to be coming any time soon as I haven’t got a GCSE class this year. Perhaps next year, but I’m not sure I’ll be teaching it or if I will have enough spare time. Sorry.

  10. I don’t know but I don’t find the COCKROACH here and we have it for our poetry anthology!!!
    But I really like almost all poems if not to think DEEP about them!! Well ya my teacher is also good what else do u need!!??

  11. Hi,

    I struggled with answering “How does Edwin Muir vividly convey memories of childhood in Horses?”

    So far, I only managed to say that he used imagery i.e. “Ah now it fades!” to show that it was a memory and powerful diction to describe the horses showing how the descriptions were in a perspective of a child. Thus we can infer that the persona was recollecting about how he felt back then.

    Could you help?

    • I’m only going to help briefly as I’m heading out for dinner.

      The horses when he was young convey a sense of mystery and magic, but also danger as a result of their size relative to him. In fact, I’ll come back to this as I’m being shouted at… sorry!

    • HEY KELLY!!! according to me he uses imagery to describe the way things are set and you could also say that he is disturbed so he writes the poem in a haphazard way which states the condition of his mind as well as his condition; he obviously uses adjectives I don’t really know but adverbs also to describe things…….
      further he also uses description he also uses alliteration of the words ‘deepening drumming’……………
      you could search or personification in this poem also; leaving similes and metaphors will be a BIG mistake!!! have a good time analysing!!!!!

      BEST WISHES!!!!

    • Hey Kelly,
      This poem just so happens to be my favourite one and the question you are attempting is one of the most common questions you get in the examination.
      As mentioned by the other do talk about the imagery- but talk about the second paragraph in detail (how he brings out the industrialisation which we can infer was a big part of his childhood)
      And also do talk about the war!

      You might also want to mention his mixed feelings towards the creatures- the admiration, awe and fear seen throughout the poem. The horses basically represent his childhood and these mixed feelings reflect his experiences as a child (but that’s just my perspective, you’re free to think otherwise haha.) You should bring out his infatuation with the horses and how when he sees the horses in his present day, his childhood memories come back to him – thus theme of nostalgia.

      He also uses repetition and hyperbole in ‘ah it fades, it fades and I must pine’
      the repetition and hyperbole show his attachment and how he is regretful that he is not a child anymore/ he yearns for his childhood and the memories.

      I guess that’s all the expertise i can lend haha but good luck writing the answer!

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