The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen by Wilfred OwenReposted November 4th, 2018 - in memory of November 4th, 1918, the poets last battle!
I have been circling around World War I for a while now, reading novels that were published around 1915, such as The Voyage Out or Of Human Bondage, and poetry that referred back to that breaking point in history, for example Duffys Last Post.
As Dulce Et Decorum Est is one of my all time favourite poems (if you can say that about something as sad and scary as those lines), I have been meaning to dig deeper into Owens reflections for a long time.
I find it hard to describe my feelings towards this collection, as there are so many strands that join together to weave the pattern of this reading experience. There is the brilliant young poet, writing beautiful verse, and the witness of the literal break down of a whole value system, and the truthful chronicler of historical events, and the sad prophet, and the voice of millions of soldiers fighting a war that did not really regard them.
There is modernity in art breaking through the lines of the trenches, beauty for beautys sake dying with the idealism that could not be kept in the face of bitter reality...
I keep thinking of Rudyard Kiplings world, an intact ethical system with the honour of the British Empire as a guiding star, and how this world was brutally destroyed when he pressured the system to let his myopic son Jack enrol in the war, only to lose him forever shortly afterwards. I wonder if it was worse for Kipling not to know exactly what happened, so that he had to keep asking, full of sorrow, after 1915, about news of his boy Jack:
“Have you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
Would it have been easier for the devastated father if he had received all the harsh details Owen describes in his poems? The hard, sad, tormenting details of trench warfare and its effects, speaking of the countless young men lost...
The ones who die, thinking:
Id love to be a sweep now, black as Town,
Yes, or a muckman. Must I be his load?
The ones who are mutilated forever, at age nineteen:
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow...
The ones who have lost their sanity in the face of terror:
But poor Jim, es livin an es not;
E reckoned ed five chances, an e ad;
Es wounded, killed an prisner, all the lot,
The bloody lot all rolled in one. Jims mad.
The ones who survived to be haunted forever by their memories.
That of course was something Wilfred Owen could not write about, himself falling during the last week of the war in November 1918. But we have plenty of testimony of the traumatised survivors, as Doris Lessing recalls in her autobiography for example, describing her parents fate. Remarque wrote down his nightmare in his All Quiet on the Western Front, describing an experience where the death, mutilation and trauma of young men was so common that newspapers could report Nothing New On The Western Front on the day the hero of the novel dies.
I could read, and reread Wilfred Owen over and over. First of all, he gives the war a voice that is honest and direct, without any of those old lies of decorous and honorable patriotic fights and deaths. He shows the reality of that time, but he also creates art. Where others write reports, he sings a desperate song of pity for a generation taught to die for a nation that does not care for them at all. When they discover that, it is too late.
He tells the story of those soldiers, and thus makes history come alive again, to remind and warn that there is no glory in killing.
But somehow, he also manages to give me hope. For he wrote beautiful, thoughtful, and wise poetry under horrendous pressure, thus showing the human ability to create a space for kindness and pity in any situation. Who writes like Owen has not given up on humanity as a whole. Who wants to reach out and teach the coming generations to be careful with their lives can not be entirely lost.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend, - that line goes deep under my skin!
So I close his poetry collection deeply thankful that his poetry was saved for me to read, forever curious what he would have done with his incredible talent, had he lived beyond 25!
Wilfred Owen - Dulce Et Decorum Est - Poetry Lecture and Analysis by Dr. Andrew Barker
Poet Wilfred Owen killed in action
Wilfred Owen, who wrote some of the best British poetry on World War I, composed nearly all of his poems in slightly over a year, from August to September In November he was killed in action at the age of 25, one week before the Armistice. Only five poems were published in his lifetime—three in the Nation and two that appeared anonymously in the Hydra , a journal he edited in when he was a patient at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. Shortly after his death, seven more of his poems appeared in the volume of Edith Sitwell 's annual anthology, Wheels : a volume dedicated to his memory, and in and seven other poems appeared in periodicals. Owen wrote vivid and terrifying poems about modern warfare, depicting graphic scenes with honest emotions; in doing so, young Owen helped to advance poetry into the Modernist era. Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born on March 18, , in Oswestry, on the Welsh border of Shropshire, in the beautiful and spacious home of his maternal grandfather. As the oldest of four children born in rapid succession, Wilfred developed a protective attitude toward the others and an especially close relationship with his mother.
Search more than 3, biographies of contemporary and classic poets. After the death of his grandfather in , the family moved to Birkenhead, where Owen was educated at the Birkenhead Institute. After another move in , he continued his studies at the technical school in Shrewsbury. Interested in the arts at a young age, Owen began writing poetry as a teenager. In Owen matriculated at London University, but after failing to receive a scholarship, he spent a year as a lay assistant to a vicar in Oxfordshire. Laurent Tailhade.
Please refresh the page and retry. D ead at 25 years old, Wilfred Owen was one of the most memorable voices from the trenches of the Great War. His father worked on the railways, and the family moved several times for his career. His mother had a firm faith, and he inherited some of it. Owen left school in and sat the entrance exams for the University of London. Unfortunately, he did not receive the scholarship he needed, so instead he went to learn from a vicar near Reading. It was not a good match, and Owen soon drifted away from theological instruction, preferring to concentrate on poetry.
By This Poet
He was one of the leading poets of the First World War. His war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his mentor Siegfried Sassoon , and stood in stark contrast both to the public perception of war at the time and to the confidently patriotic verse written by earlier war poets such as Rupert Brooke. When Wilfred was born, his parents lived in a comfortable house owned by his grandfather, Edward Shaw. After Edward's death in January , and the house's sale in March,  the family lodged in the back streets of Birkenhead. There Thomas Owen temporarily worked in the town employed by a railway company.
Born into a middle-class family in near Oswestry, Shropshire, Owen was the eldest of three. His father, Tom Owen, was a railway clerk and his mother, Susan, was from a fervently religious family. In , Owen enlisted in the army and in December was sent to France, joining the 2nd Manchester Regiment on the Somme. Within two weeks of his arrival he was commanding a platoon on the front line. In the midst of heavy gunfire, he waded for miles through trenches two feet deep in water with the constant threat of gas attacks. The brutal reality of war had a profound effect on him, as he recounted in letters to his mother.