Wilfred Owen

September 26, 2006


Leading poet of WWI
Began writing poetry at 17
Taught at the Berlitz School of English until he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles in 1915
Was caught in a shell-explosion for 3 days in 1917 and was soon after diagnosed with shell-shock
Met Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart War Hospital who encouraged Owen to continue with his poetry: surviving letters show that Owen was in love with Sassoon (who was primarily homosexual)
Homoeroticism is a central element in poetry
Owen’s sexuality was obscured by his brother by his removal of passages in letters and diaries
In June 1918 he rejoined his regiment and was killed on November 4th while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre canal
Posthumously awarded the Military Cross
Never saw his own work published


Move him into the sun –/ Gently its touch awoke him once, / At home, whispering of fields unsown. / Always it woke him, even in France, / Until this morning and this snow. / If anything might rouse him now / The kind old sun will know. Think how it wakes the seeds — / Woke, once, the clays of a cold star. / Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides / Full-nerved, — still warm, — too hard to stir? / Was it for this the clay grew tall? / — O what made fatuous sunbeams toil / To break earth’s sleep at all?

-Futility (in whole)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, / Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, / And towards our distant rest began to trudge. / Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, / But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; / Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots / Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling / Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, / But someone still was yelling out and stumbling / And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.- / Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, / As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight / He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace / Behind the wagon that we flung him in, / And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, / His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin, / If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs / Bitter as the cud / Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,- / My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.

-Dulce et Decorum est (in whole)

Most important poem of WWI
“How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country”


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