The British citizen Wilfred Owen fought during the First World War. During and after the war he began to write about his experiences and the effects it had. In his poems he talks about various aspects or war, from gas attacks to winter offensives.
One of his poems is about why people join the army at the beginning and during a war. Owen tells us about a man who joined the army and had both his arms and legs amputated in a poem called “Disabled”. He was nineteen and joined the army underage because he got drunk and his friends dared him to. This happened quite a lot during the first and second world wars. Owen says he thought only of “jewelled hilts” and “smart salutes”, basically this person only saw the good side of joining the army, he forgot there would be bad times. During the war he had limps amputated and he had to “spend a few sick years in institutes”. Owen says he now feels “cold” and that people have “no pity”.
Owen also writes about the war in the winter and the war in the spring in two different poems.
His winter poem, “Exposure” talks about the winter war and life in the trenches. Owen sets the scene in the first paragraph by using descriptive words. He mainly talks about the weather and describes it as being “merciless”. The main point of the poem is to look at it from Owens points of view. They cannot attack the weather so the “rain soaks” and the “clouds sag stormy”. He also tells us that they cannot stop the weather so at the end of four of the seven stanzas he says “but nothing happens”, this shows that they can’t do anything. Owen also asks rhetorical questions such as “What are we doing here”, and “Is it that were dying”, this shows Owen is feeling depressed and dismayed.
Owens’ second of the two poems is called “Spring offensive” this is set during the months of either April or May. It was during the spring months that both sides made offensives, as during winter morale was low. The poem is made up of seven stanzas and is split into three parts.
The first part is before a major assault on the enemy when troops are resting and sleeping. But some are realising this could be their last moment and are asking themselves rhetorical questions. Owen talks about how they feels and uses phrases like this to enhance the feeling of the poem making it feel more realistic, “Knowing their feet had come to the edge of the world”. Owen also makes this stanza seem longer by using an old cliche, “hour after hour”
The second part consists of only one stanza. This is Owen again pointing out (as he did in “Disabled”) that war is not as glorious as it is depicted. Owen describes there as being “no glamorous haste” and “no bugles, no high flags”. Many people depict war, as being glorious, Owen is basically saying that this is not true.
The third and final part is the army running towards the enemy. Owen sees the attack as vicious and makes a point of it in his poem, he describes the men as “breasted on a surf of bullets”. At this point Owen becomes quite religious, which is something that has not been seen in his poems so far, this is shown by his use phrases such as ” god caught them before they fell” and “fury of hells upsurge”, this tells is he feels angry. This later led him to feel guilty as a lucky person to have lived, as at the end of the poem he asks, “Why not speak of comrades that went under”.
To understand the poem “Dolce est decorum est” you must first understand the phrase. The full phrase is “Dolce est Decorum est Pro Patria Mori”, it means “To die for ones country is both noble and honourable”. This poem is about a person who dies during a gas attack and Owen witnesses the event and is clearly traumatised.
The poem starts with Owen describing the area and the “horrible” conditions, he tells us that all of the men feel as if they “marched asleep”.
In the second paragraph there is a gas attack and one of the men in Owens battalion fails to get his mask on in time. Owen describes it as watching him “drowning under a green sea”.
Owen then goes on to the next stanza, which is very descriptive and is about how he feels about watching this man die. I feel this again refers to his earlier poem “Exposure”, during the last paragraph Owen said that they were not allowed to have feelings. He talks during this stanza about how it will be in “all of his dreams” and how the man was “guttering”, “choking”, and “drowning”.
Owen then in the last stanza goes on to say that you should not tell your children “the old lie : Dulce est decorum est pro patria mori”, as it is not glorious or noble or even honourable to die for your country in a gas attack.
One point of war is inevitably death, and injury. Many people died in both world wars, and many more than that were injured. After the war many people came home and had to face love ones’ funerals.
Owen has obviously experienced this first hand and had written a poem about it. During his poem “Anthem for doomed youth” he writes about after war and the funerals that took place. He talks about how they get less respect for people, such as “bells” or “prayers”. He tells us that there is no respect for people who died during the war. This is true even today, many children do not know why on the 11th minute, of the 11th hours of the 11th months they take a mark of silence. They do it because they are told to. People take freedom for granted, and I feel Owen is relating to this modern day concept many years ago, shortly after World War I.
One aspect of war is returning home to see loved ones Owen again has a piece which deals with this issue although he never experienced it fully. Wilfred Owen died two days before the end of WWI, but his earlier piece “Disabled” deals with this topic.
In the last three stanza’s Owen talks about how it was for the person to return home early and be given weird looks, and how “women’s eyes look at the strong men that are whole”. This is a sacrifice which he made when he joined the army underage, as he only though about the good points, much the same as “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”. Although Owen never experienced returning his pieces were still very deep on the matter,
Wilfred Owen was a good poem writer and it is a shame that he died two days before peace was declared and WWI was ended. I feel he could have continued giving the world much more in the way of descriptive poetry like this. But as mentioned before many people didn’t like to think back to the war as it only brought back bad memories.