Learning Objectives: To analyse Keywords: Spring, Offensive, Contrasts Success criteria: To annotate poem successfully through in depth analysis Homework: Write a detailed analysis of Exposure and Spring Offensive. Read the poem ‘ Spring Offensive ’ in silence .
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Keywords: Spring, Offensive, Contrasts
Success criteria: To annotate poem successfully
through in depth analysis
Homework: Write a detailed analysis of Exposure and Spring
‘Spring Offensive’ in silence.
Compare the ways in which Owen portrays the extreme situations which the soldiers experience in these two poems.
You should consider:
Each year of the First World War was marked by massive spring attacks by one side or the other. All were unsuccessful until the Germans finally smashed the Western Front in March 1918.
Many writers noted the contrast between the new life and energy of spring, and the death and destruction of battle.
Spring Offensive is Owen’s last poem and is based on this contrast.
‘Spring Offensive’ is the last poem Owen ever wrote. We do not know whether it is finished or not.
It is full of pastoral (countryside and scenery) imagery, and contains much religious imagery as well.
It was written after a real attack on 14th April 1917, in St. Quentin, France; when Owen’s battalion attempted to capture the city back from the Germans .
The German trench was on some high ground and to attack it involved Owen leading his battalion up the hills, while under very severe artillery fire. Before the attack, they rested in a shallow valley called ‘Squash Valley’ whilst awaiting orders .
In July 1918, Owen wrote ‘Spring Offensive,’ much of which can be related to the surroundings and events of the 14th April 1917 attack.
Spring Offensive is about the attack on St. Quentin by the 2nd Bn. Manchester Regt. 14th April 1917.
form and structure reflect content!
Imagery and figurative devices
Structure (and form)
The poem is made up of six stanzas. Can you work out what is happening in each? Complete your table below.
Halted against the shade of a last hillThey fed, and eased of pack-loads were at ease;And leaning on the nearest chests and kneesCarelessly slept.
But many there stood stillTo face the stark blank sky beyond the ridge,Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.
Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirledBy the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge;For though the summer oozed into their veinsLike the injected drug for their bodies' pains,Sharp on their souls hung the imminent ridge of grass,Fearfully flashed the sky's mysterious glass.
Hour after hour they ponder the warm field And the far valley behind, where buttercupsHad blessed with gold their slow boots coming up;Where even the little brambles would not yield,But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing arms.They breathe like trees unstirred.
Till like a cold gust thrills the little wordAt which each body and its soul begirdAnd tighten them for battle. No alarmsOf bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste, —Only a lift and flare of eyes that facedThe sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.O larger shone that smile against the sun, —Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned.
So, soon they topped the hill, and raced togetherOver an open stretch of herb and heatherExposed. And instantly the whole sky burnedWith fury against them; earth set sudden cupsIn thousands for their blood; and the green slopesChasmed and deepened sheer to infinite space.
Of them who running on that last high placeBreasted the surf of bullets, or went upOn the hot blast and fury of hell's upsurge,Or plunged and fell away past this world's verge,Some say God caught them even before they fell.
But what say such as from existence' brinkVentured but drave too swift to sink,The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,And there out-fiending all its fiends and flamesWith superhuman inhumanities,Long-famous glories, immemorial shames —And crawling slowly back, have by degreesRegained cool peaceful air in wonder —Why speak not they of comrades that went under?