Red Lips Are Not So Red Poem by Wilfred Owen

Red Lips Are Not So Red

Rating: 3.1

Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude
Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,
Rolling and rolling there
Where God seems not to care;
Till the fierce Love they bear
Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft, --
Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft, --
Your dear voice is not dear,
Gentle, and evening clear,
As theirs whom none now hear
Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot,
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

Ian Fraser 26 July 2011

This reads a little like a wild and bitter parody of an Elizabethan love lyric. It certainly has more than a little of the metaphysical poets' love of contradiction. It's perhaps his most anti-feminist poem (some have claimed, with little evidence, that Owen was homosexual) though if he was it was only because in war you are in close proximity only to men and therefore they become your primary interest. The 'pity of war' that Owen spoke of so strongly is very much in evidence here as well as the irony.

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Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

Shropshire / England
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