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The Poems of Wilfred Owen. What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes. Wilfred Owen.

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the poems of wilfred owen
The Poems of Wilfred Owen
  • What candles may be held to speed them all?
  • Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
  • Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes...

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen is widely recognized as one of the greatest voices of the First World War. His self-appointed task was to speak for the men in his care, to show the 'Pity of War'.

Owen's enduring and influential poetry is evidence of his bleak realism, his energy and indignation, his compassion and his great technical skill.

(Wilfred Owen Association)

owen s inner turmoil
Owen’s Inner turmoil...
  • Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 and died in action in 1918. He was a man of great sensitivity, and an intellectual, plunged against his will into the holocaust of an atrocious war. He responded to the war, which horrified and disgusted him, in a way which was never simple. In one letter he wrote 'My senses are charred', but there is certainly no evidence, in his surviving poetry, that they were numbed, by any means.
owen s inner turmoil1
Owen’s Inner turmoil...
  • Owen came to see the war, not as a disease to be cured by purelypolitical action, nor as a crusade against evil, but as a major tragedy to which the only appropriate response was compassion. 'The poetry is in the Pity', he wrote in the much-quoted introduction he had prepared for his first book of poems.
owen s inner turmoil2
Owen’s Inner turmoil...
  • In his best poems, he writes not only about war, but about war as ametaphor for the human condition. This give his best work a far-reaching gravity and moral force which will never date and which makes his poems applicable to any situation in which people must suffer and die.
the consequences
The Consequences…
  • He felt pressured by the propaganda to become a soldier and volunteered on 21st October 1915. He spent the last day of 1916 in a tent in France joining the Second Manchesters. He was full of boyish high spirits at being a soldier. 
the consequences1
The Consequences…
  • Within a week he had been transported to the front line in a cattle wagon and was "sleeping" 70 or 80 yards from a heavy gun which fired every minute or so. He was soon wading miles along trenches two feet deep in water. Within a few days he was experiencing gas attacks and was horrified by the stench of the rotting dead; his sentry was blinded, his company then slept out in deep snow and intense frost till the end of January. That month was a profound shock for him: he now understood the meaning of war. "The people of England needn't hope. They must agitate," he wrote home.
the reality
The Reality
  • No knowledge, imagination or training fully prepared Owen for the shock and suffering of front line experience. Within twelve days of arriving in France the easy-going chatter of his letters turned to a cry of anguish. By the 9th of January, 1917 he had joined the 2nd Manchesters on the Somme – at Bertrancourt near Amien. Here he took command of number 3 platoon, "A" Company.
the reality1
The Reality
  • He wrote home to his mother, "I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these last four days. I have suffered seventh hell. – I have not been at the front. – I have been in front of it. – I held an advanced post, that is, a "dug-out" in the middle of No Man's Land.We had a march of three miles over shelled road, then nearly three along a flooded trench. After that we came to where the trenches had been blown flat out and had to go over the top. It was of course dark, too dark, and the ground was not mud, not sloppy mud, but an octopus of sucking clay, three, four, and five feet deep, relieved only by craters full of water . . ."
the consequences2
The Consequences…
  • He escaped bullets until the last week of the war, but he saw a good deal of front-line action: he was blown up, concussed and suffered shell-shock. At Craiglockhart, the psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh, he met Siegfried Sassoon who inspired him to develop his war poetry.
craiglockhart hospital
Craiglockhart Hospital

In 1915 Owen enlisted in the British Army. His first experiences of active service at Serre and St. Quentin in January-April 1917 led to shell-shock and his return to Britain. Whilst he was undergoing treatment at the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, he met one of his literary heroes, Siegfried Sassoon, who provided him with guidance, and encouragement to bring his war experiences into his poetry.

(Wilfred Owen Association)

the influence of sassoon
The Influence of Sassoon

Owen’s meeting with Sassoon in Craiglockhart undoubtedly served to widen and complicate the terms of his self-debate yet further. In encouraging the young poet to take his writing seriously and contemplate the possibility of future publication, Sassoon made him aware that the soldier-poet is not simply writing on behalf of his inarticulate fellow-men but to an audience about issues that might involve the poet in taking a political position. (p.12)

the influence of sassoon1
The Influence of Sassoon
  • Owen believed the war was being fought for a just cause.  Sassoon – who had talked to pacifists, Bertrand Russell among them – saw things differently: he thought politicians had secretly changed their aims and were now more interested in grabbing colonies and trade than in the original, honorable struggle to liberate Belgium. 
back in the line of fire
Back in the line of fire…
  • He was sent back to the trenches in September, 1918 and in October he took part in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Joncourt , seizing a German machine-gun and using it to kill a number of Germans.  He won the Military Cross in recognition of his courage and leadership.
  • On 4th November he was shot and killed near the village of Ors. The news of his death reached his parents home as the Armistice bells were ringing on 11 November.
  • The Wilfred Owen Association.”Wilfred Owen”,
  • Saxon Books. “War Poetry”.