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Book Title: Poems By Wilfred Owen (Large Print)|
The author of the book: Wilfred Owen
Edition: Echo Library
Date of issue: November 1st 2007
ISBN 13: 9781406848427
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 980 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.9
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Reposted November 4th, 2018 - in memory of November 4th, 1918, the poet's last battle!
I have been circling around World War I for a while now, reading novels that were published around 1915, such as The Voyage Out or Of Human Bondage, and poetry that referred back to that breaking point in history, for example Duffy's Last Post.
As "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is one of my all time favourite poems (if you can say that about something as sad and scary as those lines), I have been meaning to dig deeper into Owen's reflections for a long time.
I find it hard to describe my feelings towards this collection, as there are so many strands that join together to weave the pattern of this reading experience. There is the brilliant young poet, writing beautiful verse, and the witness of the literal break down of a whole value system, and the truthful chronicler of historical events, and the sad prophet, and the voice of millions of soldiers fighting a war that did not really regard them.
There is modernity in art breaking through the lines of the trenches, beauty for beauty's sake dying with the idealism that could not be kept in the face of bitter reality...
I keep thinking of Rudyard Kipling's world, an intact ethical system with the honour of the British Empire as a guiding star, and how this world was brutally destroyed when he pressured the system to let his myopic son Jack enrol in the war, only to lose him forever shortly afterwards. I wonder if it was worse for Kipling not to know exactly what happened, so that he had to keep asking, full of sorrow, after 1915, about news of his boy Jack:
“Have you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide."
Would it have been easier for the devastated father if he had received all the harsh details Owen describes in his poems? The hard, sad, tormenting details of trench warfare and its effects, speaking of the countless young men lost...
The ones who die, thinking:
"I'd love to be a sweep now, black as Town,
Yes, or a muckman. Must I be his load?"
The ones who are mutilated forever, at age nineteen:
"He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow..."
The ones who have lost their sanity in the face of terror:
"But poor Jim, 'e's livin' an' e's not;
E' reckoned 'e'd five chances, an' 'e 'ad;
E's wounded, killed an' pris'ner, all the lot,
The bloody lot all rolled in one. Jim's mad."
The ones who survived to be haunted forever by their memories.
That of course was something Wilfred Owen could not write about, himself falling during the last week of the war in November 1918. But we have plenty of testimony of the traumatised survivors, as Doris Lessing recalls in her autobiography for example, describing her parents' fate. Remarque wrote down his nightmare in his All Quiet on the Western Front, describing an experience where the death, mutilation and trauma of young men was so common that newspapers could report "Nothing New On The Western Front" on the day the hero of the novel dies.
I could read, and reread Wilfred Owen over and over. First of all, he gives the war a voice that is honest and direct, without any of those "old lies" of decorous and honorable patriotic fights and deaths. He shows the reality of that time, but he also creates art. Where others write reports, he sings a desperate song of pity for a generation taught to die for a nation that does not care for them at all. When they discover that, it is too late.
He tells the story of those soldiers, and thus makes history come alive again, to remind and warn that there is no glory in killing.
But somehow, he also manages to give me hope. For he wrote beautiful, thoughtful, and wise poetry under horrendous pressure, thus showing the human ability to create a space for kindness and pity in any situation. Who writes like Owen has not given up on humanity as a whole. Who wants to reach out and teach the coming generations to be careful with their lives can not be entirely lost.
"I am the enemy you killed, my friend", - that line goes deep under my skin!
So I close his poetry collection deeply thankful that his poetry was saved for me to read, forever curious what he would have done with his incredible talent, had he lived beyond 25!
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Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War. His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoon and stood in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at the time, and to the confidently patriotic verse written earlier by war poets such as Rupert Brooke. Among his best-known works — most of which were published posthumously — are "Dulce et Decorum Est", "Insensibility", "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility" and "Strange Meeting".
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