The best poems of Wilfred Owen
Previously, we’ve selected ten of the best poems about the First World War; but of all the English poets to write about that conflict, one name towers above the rest: Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Here’s our pick of Wilfred Owen’s ten best poems.
‘Futility’. This is a brief lyric that focuses on a group of soldiers standing over the dead body of a fallen comrade, and is one of Owen’s finest uses of his trademark pararhyme (or half-rhyme). Although the speaker and his fellow soldiers seem to think that the ‘kind old sun’ will be able to revive their dead comrade, we readers know that this is hopeful optimism if not naivety on the part of the speaker.
‘Strange Meeting’. Siegfried Sassoon called ‘Strange Meeting’ Owen’s passport to immortality; it’s certainly true that it’s poems like this that helped to make Owen the definitive English poet of the First World War. The poem is narrated by a soldier who dies in battle and finds himself in Hell. There he meets a man whom he identifies as a ‘strange friend’. This other man tells the narrator that they Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic war poem
Edward Thomas’s poem ‘Rain’ was written in 1916, while Thomas was fighting in the trenches. What follows is the poem, followed by a brief analysis of some of its language, motifs, and images.
Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon: Read the rest of this entry
Charles Hamilton Sorley’s haunting poem of WWI: an analysis
The Scottish war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley was just 20 years old when he died in 1915 at the Battle of Loos. He was the youngest of the major war poets, having been born in 1895. He left this poem, probably his most famous, untitled at his death. For Robert Graves, in his war memoir Goodbye to All That, Sorley was, along with Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen, ‘one of the three poets of importance killed during the war.’ Sorley’s poems would be published posthumously as a book, Marlborough and Other Poems, in 1916. ‘When you see millions of the mouthless dead’ is the most popular poem by this still underappreciated and unpopular poet.
When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so. Read the rest of this entry