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.
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.
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,
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,
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?
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 1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us ... 2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent ...
The beautiful, the fair, the elegant, Is that which pleases us, says Kant, Without a thought of interest or advantage.
I Know The Music
All sounds have been as music to my listening: Pacific lamentations of slow bells, The crunch of boots on blue snow rosy-glistening, Shuffle of autumn leaves; and all farewells:
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 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!
A New Heaven
Seeing we never found gay fairyland (Though still we crouched by bluebells moon by moon) And missed the tide of Lethe; yet are soon For that new bridge that leaves old Styx half-spanned;
So the church Christ was hit and buried
Under its rubbish and its rubble.
In cellars, packed-up saints long serried,
Well out of hearing of our trouble.
One Virgin still immaculate
Smiles on for war to flatter her.
She's halo'd with an old tin hat,
But a piece of hell will batter her.