‘Mental Cases’ began life as a poem titled ‘The Deranged’ in late 1917, following Wilfred Owen’s famous meeting with fellow war poet Siegfried Sassoon in Craiglockhart Hospital. Encouraged by Sassoon, and partly inspired by his fellow war poet’s poem ‘The Survivors’, Owen set about depicting the terrifying mental landscape of those men fighting in the trenches during the First World War. ‘Mental Cases’ is a powerful evocation and analysis of the psychological effects of the world’s first mass industrial war on the young men who experienced it.
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, — but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?
— These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished. Read the rest of this entry
‘Autumn Rain’ is not one of D. H. Lawrence’s most famous poems. He wrote a great deal of poetry, and whilst some of it falls short of the greatness we associate with his novels and short stories, ‘Autumn Rain’ shows his delicate control of poetic syntax and his inventiveness with imagery. Here is ‘Autumn Rain’ and a few words of analysis.
The plane leaves
fall black and wet
on the lawn;
the cloud sheaves
in heaven’s fields set
droop and are drawn
in falling seeds of rain;
the seed of heaven
on my face Read the rest of this entry
Describing a group of new soldiers departing for the trenches by train, ‘The Send-Off’ is one of Wilfred Owen’s best poems. ‘The Send-Off’ muses upon the unknown fates of those young men who left for war. Do they now mock the women who gave them flowers to wish them goodwill as they left for the horrors of the Front?
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard. Read the rest of this entry