‘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
Among all of the Great War poets Britain produced, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) stands as the greatest. Like a poet he greatly admired, John Keats, he was dead at the age of 25 but in his short life he managed to find his own distinctive poetic voice and used it to write poems of great emotive power and technical skill. ‘Greater Love’ is a fine example of what makes Wilfred Owen England’s pre-eminent poet of the First World War. For Remembrance Day and the centenary of the Armistice, here is one of Owen’s most moving poems.
‘Greater Love’ by Wilfred Owen
Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead! Read the rest of this entry
‘Insensibility’ is one of the longest poems written by the pre-eminent English poet of the First World War, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Owen, who famously said that ‘the Poetry is in the pity’, explores in ‘Insensibility’ the way the war necessitates a closing-off of feeling in those who experience the horrors of the trenches. ‘Insensibility’ is about this loss of feeling and what it signifies. As well as being one of Wilfred Owen’s longest poems, ‘Insensibility’ is also, we feel, one of his great achievements as a poet.
‘Insensibility’ by Wilfred Owen