Treasure Island

Wilfred Owen

(1893-1918 / Shropshire / England)

The Last Laugh


'Oh! Jesus Christ! I'm hit,' he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed or prayed indeed,
The Bullets chirped-In vain, vain, vain!
Machine-guns chuckled,-Tut-tut! Tut-tut!
And the Big Gun guffawed.

Another sighed,-'O Mother, -Mother, - Dad!'
Then smiled at nothing, childlike, being dead.
And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud
Leisurely gestured,-Fool!
And the splinters spat, and tittered.

'My Love!' one moaned. Love-languid seemed his mood,
Till slowly lowered, his whole faced kissed the mud.
And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned;
Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned;
And the Gas hissed.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Harry Keegan (8/4/2014 6:33:00 PM)

    What owen does well in this poem is that he is able to create emotion relating to the audience, the pure fact of these soldier suffering, through each soldier dying while being the victim of guns (Report) Reply

  • Vanni Pule' (6/23/2006 4:54:00 AM)

    Three stanzas describe different reactions and exclamations by three different soldiers when these are hit by weapons. The soldiers’ responses are emotional but the weapons’ attacks are ferocious, callous and capricious.

    In the first stanza the soldier’s answer is ambiguously religious. We are not sure if he is praying or cursing. But the bullets and machine guns do not care. Paradoxically they are even personified as dehumanized insensitive creatures that mock the victim with the sounds they make. Owen uses various synonyms of laughter to express both the lack of concern for human life and to echo the onomatopoeic sounds of killing machines. In the first stanza the bullets chirp, tut-tut, chuckle and guffaw.

    The second young soldier appeals to his parents, either because he really means it or by force of habit. But his childlike appearance is only reflected in death. On the other hand the shrapnel cloud spits and titters calling him “Fool”.

    The third soldier who is in love calls for his partner but he only ends up kissing the mud instead of the girl. The Bayonets grin, the shells hoot and groan and the gas hisses.

    The young soldiers in the battlefield are abandoned both by fate and by their human relations. Their only companions are the weapons that deride them with their indiscriminate and random attacks. (Report) Reply

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