Wilfred Owen

(1893-1918 / Shropshire / England)

Mental Cases

Poem by Wilfred Owen

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.

Comments about Mental Cases by Wilfred Owen

  • Jim Tommy Jim (3/4/2020 3:28:00 AM)

    Sorry but that's the only way to describe itAlready ReportedReply

    4 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • ILikeToAnalyis (10/5/2019 8:32:00 AM)

    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(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Lachie Mason (3/31/2019 10:36:00 PM)

    really devine poem, just crazy(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • harry Ryan (3/31/2019 10:33:00 PM)

    greatness my favourite poem of all time(Report)Reply

    Alexander Kopievsky(3/31/2019 10:34:00 PM)

    great call

    4 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • eeeeee (11/16/2018 7:51:00 AM)


    5 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Liam TaylorLiam Taylor (3/4/2015 7:18:00 AM)

    10/10 would read again(Report)Reply

    eeeeee(6/10/2019 7:17:00 PM)

    read it again then

    31 person liked.
    30 person did not like.
  • Cathy O (2/27/2015 1:14:00 PM)

    Historically his knowledge is impressive. PTSD was not really a thing during world war one. Or it had no true form of treatment. I believe this is a great representation of the horror of the trenches.(Report)Reply

    ILikeToAnalyis(10/5/2019 8:35:00 AM)

    It isn't that it wasn't a thing so much that it wasn't recognized as something you would gain throught the conditions and horror of War and was instead interpreted as Cowardice. There was no treatment at the time as far as I know though.

    23 person liked.
    15 person did not like.
  • Conrad B. (11/23/2013 9:33:00 PM)

    This poem is misquoted in two places, both in the lines Drooping tongues from jays that slob their relish, /
    Baring teeth that leer like skulls' teeth wicked? The correct quote is Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish, / Baring teeth that leer like skulls' tongues wicked? both jays and teeth are incorrect.(Report)Reply

    25 person liked.
    26 person did not like.
  • Jane Moon (6/3/2009 4:16:00 PM)

    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!(Report)Reply

    34 person liked.
    30 person did not like.
  • Philip Ford (2/25/2005 6:16:00 AM)

    The greatest anti-war poem ever written(Report)Reply

    ketttyyyyy(10/12/2018 4:30:00 AM)

    suck your mum

    24 person liked.
    33 person did not like.
Read all 14 comments »

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Read poems about / on: hair, brother, laughter, memory, war, pain, night, murder, sleep, smile, wind

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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