Wilfred Owen

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All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen (18 March 18934 November 1918) was a British poet and soldier. Regarded by many as the leading poet of the First World War, he was killed 7 days before it ended.

Sourced[edit]

We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.
  • 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, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War.
    Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.
    'My subject is War, and the pity of War.
    The Poetry is in the pity.
    Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
    • Draft for a preface to a collection of war poems he hoped to publish in 1919 (c. May 1918) and used in Poems of Wifred Owen( Memoir and notes).ed Edmund Blunden (1933).Chatto & Windus 1964.ASIN: B000GLY9CI
  • Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
    We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
    No soldier's paid to kick against His powers.
    We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
    And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
    He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.

Dulce et Decorum Est (1917)[edit]

Full text online
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod.
  • Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
  • Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod.
  • Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
  • If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

Strange Meeting (1918)[edit]

None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
  • "Strange friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
    "None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
    The hopelessness.
    Whatever hope is yours,
    Was my life also; I went hunting wild
    After the wildest beauty in the world,
    Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
    But mocks the steady running of the hour,
    And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
    For by my glee might many men have laughed,
    And of my weeping something has been left,
    Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
    The pity of war, the pity war distilled.

    Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
    Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
    They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
    None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
    Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
    Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
    To miss the march of this retreating world
    Into vain citadels that are not walled.

The Dead-Beat[edit]

That scum you sent last night soon died. Hooray!
  • He dropped, — more sullenly than wearily,
    Lay stupid like a cod, heavy like meat,
    And none of us could kick him to his feet;
    — Just blinked at my revolver, blearily;
    — Didn't appear to know a war was on,
    Or see the blasted trench at which he stared.
  • We sent him down at last, out of the way.
    Unwounded; — stout lad, too, before that strafe.

    Malingering? Stretcher-bearers winked, 'Not half!'

    Next day I heard the Doc.'s well-whiskied laugh:
    'That scum you sent last night soon died. Hooray!'

Anthem for Doomed Youth[edit]

Full text online
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
  • 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.
    No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
    The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
  • The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young[edit]

  • So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    And builded parapets and trenches there,
    And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him, thy son.
    Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
    A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

The End[edit]

After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,
And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,
Shall Life renew these bodies?
My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
  • After the blast of lightning from the east,
    The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot Throne;
    After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,
    And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,
    Shall Life renew these bodies?
    Of a truth,
    All death will he annul, all tears assuage? —
    Or fill these void veins full again with youth,
    And wash, with an immortal water, age?
  • And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
    'My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
    Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified,
    Nor my titanic tears, the seas, be dried.'

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