Mental Cases Poem by Wilfred Owen

Mental Cases

Rating: 3.4

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jays that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls' teeth wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain,- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands' palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

-These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
-Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Jane Moon 03 June 2009

Ah, here is the catastrophe of war: men traumatized beyond endurance, destroyed for life. Is death preferable? What grotesque past destroyed their minds? What pathetic future enslaves them, these individuals so devastated and haunted. War has no purpose but destruction - so wrong!

35 30 Reply
Liam Taylor 04 March 2015

10/10 would read again

31 30 Reply
eeeeee 10 June 2019

read it again then

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Philip Ford 25 February 2005

The greatest anti-war poem ever written

24 33 Reply
Jim Tommy Jim 04 March 2020 Sorry but that's the only way to describe it

4 1 Reply
ILikeToAnalyis 05 October 2019

This poem is just one of the few remaining examples of a Soldier's point of view during the first world war. Extremely helpful and I believe it helped us further research PTSD

1 3 Reply
Lachie Mason 31 March 2019

really devine poem, just crazy

1 4 Reply
harry Ryan 31 March 2019

greatness my favourite poem of all time

4 4 Reply
Alexander Kopievsky 31 March 2019

great call

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eeeeee 16 November 2018


5 4 Reply
Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

Shropshire / England
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