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Mentone Girls' Grammar School | Kerferd Library

War Poetry: Wilfred Owen

Year 10 English | Language [VCELA] Literature [VCELT]

Source: Four Canadian soldiers, sleeping and writing letters in the trenches near Willerval. (IWM, 2019). Insert image: Wilfred Owen. (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019).

Level 1 resource"The ‘war poet’ and ‘war poetry’, observed Robert Graves in 1942, were ‘terms first used in World War I and perhaps peculiar to it’. From Anglo-Saxon times to the Boer War, war poetry in English was written largely by civilians and did not have a clearly defined identity; with the extraordinary outpouring between 1914 and 1918, it established itself as a genre and the soldier-poet became a species." (Das, 2014)

Referencing Notice Don't forget to cite and reference your sources. For help see the Junior School or Senior School referencing guides, and / or CiteMaker.
Resource Key

When accessing content use the numbers below to guide you:

LEVEL

Brief, basic information laid out in an easy-to-read format. May use informal language. (Includes most news articles)

LEVEL

Provides additional background information and further reading. Introduces some subject-specific language.

Level 3 resourceLEVEL

Lengthy, detailed information. Frequently uses technical/subject-specific language. (Includes most analytical articles)

General Capabilities
Enduring Understandings
  • Students will understand that poetry is a deliberate form of language where structural and linguistic features combine to create meaning.
  • Students will understand that the poetry of war has a long tradition in literature.
  • Students will understand that meaning may change depending on the context, culture and linguistic understanding of the reader.
Essential Questions
  • How is poetry different to prose?
  • How can we create meaning with language?

War Poetry | Wilfred Owen: Quick facts

Level 1Wilfred Owen (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918)

War Poetry | Wilfred Owen: Articles

Level 2Articles

Level 3 resource

War Poetry | Jessie Pope: eBooks

Level 2 resourceClick on the following book covers to place a hold in the library catalogue or access the book online. If prompted, sign in with your School mConnect user name and password.

War Poetry | Wilfred Owen: Online resources

Level 2 resourceWeb sites

War Poetry | Wilfred Owen: Poems

Using YouTube on campus help and instructions
In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.

Dulce et Decorum Est

By Wilfred Owen

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. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

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.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, 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
. *

* Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

Source: Owen, W. (1918). Dulce et Decorum Est. Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decorum-est


Level 1 resourceFilm and videoTo view this video on campus remember to first login to your school Google account using your mConnect username and password. Click here for more help on using YouTube on campus.

Source

When using this video don't forget to cite and reference your sources. For more information and help see the Kerferd Library referencing guide and / or CiteMaker.

In text citation: (Eccleston, 2013) or Eccleston (2013)
Bibliography / Reference list:Eccleston, C. (2013). Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen: Read by Christopher Eccleston. Channel 4. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/qB4cdRgIcB8

Level 2 resource

"DULCE ET DECORUM EST. One hundred years old and still the most effective anti-war poem ever written, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" was composed near the end of the First World War by Wilfred Owen, a poet who had actually experienced the horrors of the trenches. Owen gives us the harsh reality behind the wartime recruiting phrase, "It is sweet and fitting to die for your country", as he recounts a friend's death during a gas attack. It contains, for me, some of the most powerful moments in poetry: "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs."

Note: Explanation of "cursed through sludge" contains profanity (10:00 -- 10:25).
Note. Also, the gas the soldiers are attacked with would have been chlorine gas, not mustard gas as stated in the lecture." (Barker, 2014)

Source

When using this video don't forget to cite and reference your sources. For more information and help see the Kerferd Library referencing guide and / or CiteMaker.

In text citation: (Barker, 2014) or Barker (2014)
Bibliography / Reference list:Barker, A. (2014). Wilfred Owen - Dulce Et Decorum Est - Poetry Lecture and Analysis. mycroftlectures. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/jfyXGcByLxc

Using YouTube on campus help and instructions
In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

By Wilfred Owen

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.

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 goodbyes.
      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.

Source: Owen, W. (1917). Anthem for Doomed Youth. Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47393/anthem-for-doomed-youth


Level 1 resourceFilm and videoTo view this video on campus remember to first login to your school Google account using your mConnect username and password. Click here for more help on using YouTube on campus.

Source

When using this video don't forget to cite and reference your sources. For more information and help see the Kerferd Library referencing guide and / or CiteMaker.

In text citation: (Bean, 2013) or Bean (2013)
Bibliography / Reference list:Bean, S. (2013). Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen: Read by Sean Bean. Channel 4. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/GRj4DR5JTdY

Using YouTube on campus help and instructions
In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.

Disabled

By Wilfred Owen

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,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,—
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. He wonders why.
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.
That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of, all their guilt,
And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

Source: Owen, W. (1917). Disabled. Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57285/disabled

Using YouTube on campus help and instructions
In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.

Exposure

By Wilfred Owen

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . .
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent . . .
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient . . .
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
      But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
      What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . .
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,
      But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew,
We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
      But nothing happens.

Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces—
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
      —Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed,—
     We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
     For love of God seems dying.

Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
     But nothing happens.

Source: Owen, W. (1917). Exposure . Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57261/exposure-56d23a961ef5a


Using YouTube on campus help and instructions
In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.

Mental Cases

By Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
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?
Stroke on stroke of pain,- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands' palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

— These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
— Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
— Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

 

Source: Owen, W. (XXXX). Mental Cases. Retrieved from https://allpoetry.com/Mental-Cases


Using YouTube on campus help and instructions
In this section you will find the poem as well as online content that provides additional background information and literary criticism. Scroll down to see all the content.

Strange Meeting

By Wilfred Owen

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.”
“None,” said that 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 had 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.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

“I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now. . . .”

Source: Owen, W. (1918). Strange Meeting. Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47395/strange-meeting


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