Biography of Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen was born near Oswestry, Shropshire, where his father worked on the railway. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute, Liverpool and Shrewsbury Technical College. He worked as a pupil-teacher in a poor country parish before a shortage of money forced him to drop his hopes of studying at the University of London and take up a teaching post in Bordeaux (1913). He was tutoring in the Pyrenees when war was declared and enlisted as shortly afterwards.
In 1917 he suffered severe concussion and 'trench-fever' whilst fighting on the Somme and spent a period recuperating at Craiglockart War Hospital, near Edinburgh. It was he that he met Siegfried Sassoon who read his poems, suggested how they might be improved, and offered him much encouragement.
He was posted back to France in 1918 where he won the MC before being killed on the Sombre Canal a week before the Armistice was signed.
His poetry owes its beauty to a deep ingrained sense of compassion coupled with grim realism. Owen is also acknowledged as a technically accomplished poet and master of metrical variety.
Poems such as 'Dulce Decorum Est' and 'Anthem for doomed Youth' have done much to influence our attitudes towards war.
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Wilfred Owen Poems
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs, And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
I 1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us ... 2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent ...
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark, And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey, Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
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?
Anthem For Doomed Youth
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons.
War broke: and now the Winter of the world With perishing great darkness closes in. The foul tornado, centred at Berlin, Is over all the width of Europe whirled,
Under his helmet, up against his pack, After so many days of work and waking, Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
1 Move him into the sun-- 2 Gently its touch awoke him once, 3 At home, whispering of fields unsown. 4 Always it awoke him, even in France,
The beautiful, the fair, the elegant, Is that which pleases us, says Kant, Without a thought of interest or advantage.
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!
It seemed that out of the battle I escaped Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped Through granites which Titanic wars had groined. Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
The Next War
War's a joke for me and you, Wile we know such dreams are true. - Siegfried Sassoon
Arms And The Boy
1 Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade 2 How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood; 3 Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash; 4 And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.
I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears; And caused a permanent stoppage in all bolts; And buckled with a smile Mausers and Colts; And rusted every bayonet with His tears.
This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak
of them. Nor is it about deeds or lands, nor anything about glory, honour,
dominion or power,
Above all, this book is not concerned with Poetry.
The subject of it is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are not to this generation,
This is in no sense consolatory.