Wilfred Owen

(1893-1918 / Shropshire / England)

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young


So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and strops,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Philip Housiaux (1/10/2008 11:34:00 AM)

    Just extraordinary: the transposition of the preparation for the sacrifice of Isaac onto the actual sacrifice of the young men in the millions of WWI. I cannot imagine myself every finding such a profound insight for my own humble poems. (Report) Reply

  • Robert Howard (8/20/2006 3:33:00 PM)

    This chilling poem was set twice by Benjamin Britten. The first time he composed it into a duet with piano. The second time around it wound up in the War Requiem. (Report) Reply

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