All 10 SHS Core Literature Poems PDF

Below is the full list of all 10 WASSCE/SHS Core Literature poems for 2022-2026.

  • An African Thunderstorm by David Rubadiri
  • Nightfall in Soweto by Oswald Mbuyeseni Mtshali
  • The Weaver Bird by Kofi Awoonor
  • Once Upon A Time by Gabriel Okara
  • I Will Pronounce Your Name, Naet by Leopold Sedar Senghor
  • Batter My Heart by John Donne
  • Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
  • I Sit And Look Out by Walt Whitman
  • Piano by DH Lawrence
  • If We Must Die by Claude Mckay

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While the first five poems above fall under the African Poetry Section in the WAEC Core English Language syllabus, the last five constitute the Non-African Poetry segment of the same SHS English syllabus.

Remember that these Core Literature poems for WASSCE 2022-2026 are not the same as the Elective Literature-in-English set poems for 2021-2025

2022-2026 Core Literature Poems

This post contains the full text of each of the 10 SHS Core Literature poems for both school and Nov-Dec private candidates.

Do you want to download these WAEC English core Literature poems for offline use? Then I have good news for you. It is possible to download a printable PDF copy of all the SHS Core Literature poems.

With that out of the way, let’s begin to look at each of the prescribed WASSCE English core Literature poems for the period 2022-2026.

We shall begin with David Rubadiri’s poem, An African Thunderstorm and end with Claude Mckay’s If We Must Die.

Are you ready? Let’s go.


Below are the five prescribed core Literature African poems for all WAEC/WASSCE 2022-2026 candidates. Each senior high school student or private candidate must study these poems.

It is compulsory to answer objective questions on the poems as part of the WAEC English Language test.

Here comes the full text of the poem, An African Thunderstorm by the Malawian poet, David Rubadiri.

1. An African Thunderstorm by David Rubadiri

From the west
Clouds come hurrying with the wind
Turning sharply
Here and there
Like a plague of locusts
Tossing up things on its tail
Like a madman chasing nothing.

Pregnant clouds
Ride stately on its back,
Gathering to perch on hills
Like sinister dark wings;
The wind whistles by
And trees bend to let it pass.

In the village
Screams of delighted children,
Toss and turn
In the din of the whirling wind,
Babies clinging on their backs
Dart about
In and out
The wind whistles by
Whilst trees bend to let it pass.

Clothes wave like tattered flags
Flying off
To expose dangling breasts
As jagged blinding flashes
Rumble, tremble and crack
Amidst the smell of fired smoke
And the pelting march of the storm.

The second in this list of core Literature poetry for all 2022-2026 WASSCE candidates is Nightfall in Soweto. Nightfall in Soweto is written by Oswald M. Mtshali, a South African poet.

Best SHS Literature PDFs & More – Free

types of narrative techniques in literature

2. Nightfall in Soweto by Oswald Mbuyeseni Mtshali

Nightfall comes like                                   1

A dreaded disease                                     

Seeping through the pores                     

Of a healthy body

And ravaging it beyond repair    


A murderer’s hand,

Lurking in the shadows,

Clasping the dagger,

Strikes down the helpless victim.

I am the victim                                               10

I am slaughtered

Every night in the streets.

I am cornered by the fear

Gnawing at my timid heart;

In my helplessness I languish       


Man has ceased to be man

Man has become beast

Man has become prey.

I am the prey;

I am the quarry to be run down                                  20

By the marauding beast

Let loose by cruel nightfall

From his cage of death .

Where is my refuge?

Where am I safe?                                                         25

Not in my matchbox house

Where I barricade myself against nightfall  .

I tremble at his crunching footsteps,

I quake at his deafening knock at the door              

“Open up!” he barks like a rabid dog                         30

Thirsty for my blood .

Nightfall! Nightfall!

You are my mortal enemy.

But why were you ever created?

Why can’t it be daytime?

Daytime forever more ?                                    

Our third poem is from the renowned Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor.

3. The Weaver Bird by Kofi Awoonor

The weaver bird built in our house

And laid its eggs on our only tree.

We did not want to send it away.

We watched the building of the nest

And supervised the egg-laying.

And the weaver returned in the guise of the owner.

Preaching salvation to us that owned the house.

They say it came from the west

Where the storms at sea had felled the gulls

And the fishers dried their nets by lantern light.

Its sermon is the divination of ourselves

And our new horizon limits at its nest.

But we cannot join the prayers and answers of the communicants.

We look for new homes every day,

For new altars we strive to rebuild

The old shrines defiled by the weaver’s excrement.

Gabriel Okara, the celebrated Nigerian poet is the author of Once Upon a Time, our fourth African poem.

4. Once Upon a Time by Gabriel Okara

Once upon a time, son,
they used to laugh with their hearts
and laugh with their eyes:
but now they only laugh with their teeth,
while their ice-block-cold eyes
search behind my shadow.

There was a time indeed
they used to shake hands with their hearts:
but that’s gone, son.
Now they shake hands without hearts
while their left hands search
my empty pockets.

‘Feel at home!’ ‘Come again’:
they say, and when I come
again and feel
at home, once, twice,
there will be no thrice-
for then I find doors shut on me.

So I have learned many things, son.
I have learned to wear many faces
like dresses – homeface,
officeface, streetface, hostface,
cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles
like a fixed portrait smile.

And I have learned too
to laugh with only my teeth
and shake hands without my heart.
I have also learned to say,’Goodbye’,
when I mean ‘Good-riddance’:
to say ‘Glad to meet you’,
without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been
nice talking to you’, after being bored.

But believe me, son.
I want to be what I used to be
when I was like you. I want
to unlearn all these muting things.
Most of all, I want to relearn
how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror
shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs!

So show me, son,
how to laugh; show me how
I used to laugh and smile
once upon a time when I was like you.

5. I Will Pronounce Your Name, Naet by Leopold Senghor

The last in this set of prescribed African poems for the 2022-2026 WAEC Core Literature section of the English Language paper is I Will Pronounce Your Name by Leopold S. Senghor. Leopold Senghor was an accomplished author, statesman and politician from Senegal. Senghor is credited for the founding of the negritude movement in African politics and Literature.

“I will pronounce your name, Naett, I will declaim you, Naett!
Naett, your name is mild like cinnamon, it is the fragrance in which the lemon grove sleeps
Naett, your name is the sugared clarity of blooming coffee trees
And it resembles the savannah, that blossoms forth under the masculine ardour of the midday sun
Name of dew, fresher than shadows of tamarind,
Fresher even than the short dusk, when the heat of the day is silenced,
Naett, that is the dry tornado, the hard clap of lightning
Naett, coin of gold, shining coal, you my night, my sun!…
I am you hero, and now I have become your sorcerer, in order to pronounce your names.
Princess of Elissa, banished from Futa on the fateful day.”

We have come to the second part of this post. It is now time to read all the non-African poems for SHS Core Literature.


Batter My Heart is from the prolific English metaphysical poet, John Donne (1572-1631). For those of you studying Elective Literature for WASSCE 2021-2025, you must be familiar with another John Donne poem titled The Good Morrow.

Analysis of the Good Morrow by John Donne

6. Batter My Heart by John Donne

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betroth’d unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Next comes Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, another English poet. Like John Donne before him, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen (1893-1918) was a soldier. He fought in the First World War and was killed towards the end of the war in Ors, France.

7. Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

      Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 

      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?

      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.

      The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was an American poet, journalist and essayist that wrote I Sit And Look Out. His best known work was Leaves of Grass published in 1855.

8. I Sit and Look Out by Walt Whitman

I Sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all 

oppression and shame, 

I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with 

themselves, remorseful after deeds done, 

I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying, 

neglected, gaunt, desperate, 

I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer 

of young women, 

I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be 

hid, I see these sights on the earth, 

I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and 


I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who 

shall be kill’d to preserve the lives of the rest, 

I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon 

laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like; 

All these–all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,

See, hear, and am silent.

As we move to our ninth poem in this collection of WAEC/SHS Core Literature poems, there are two key points to keep in mind.

First, do not confuse the poem, Piano by D.H. Lawrence with Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara. Because they are completely different. Again, there are several other piano poems out there.

Secondly, D.H. Lawrence must sound familiar to you if you are studying the poem, Bat under WAEC/SHS Elective Literature-in-English.

Biography of D.H. Lawrence

Analysis of Bat by D.H. Lawrence

Piano and Drums Full Text

Analysis of Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara

9. Piano by D.H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;

Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see

A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings

And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song

Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong

To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside

And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour

With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour

Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast

Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

And finally, we have come to the very last of our WASSCE Core Literature poems. If We Must Die is one of my favourite poems. Maybe, there will come a time when you will get to know why.

Claude Mckay (1890-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who spearheaded the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

10. If We Must Die By Claude Mckay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursèd lot.

If we must die, O let us nobly die,

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!

Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!

What though before us lies the open grave?

Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Wrapping it up

At long last, you’ve finally got all the prescribed poems for the WASSCE 2022-2026 Core Literature test. Clearly, the rest is up to you. Whether you are a tutor or a student, you also have the opportunity to download the FREE PDF version of this document.

Do not hesitate to speak your mind in the comment box below if there is something still bothering you with regard to your lessons or studies. And, please, feel free to look around this site for more learning and teaching resources I’ve personally prepared with you in mind.

Was this information useful? Then share it on your favourite social media platform for the benefit of others you care about. Thank you!

3 thoughts on “All 10 SHS Core Literature Poems PDF”

  1. Achegiba Cornelius A. N.

    This has saved me a lot of time this semester. However, would it be possible to get commentary on them please kind sir?

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