War Poems Wilfred Owen Essays

Other titles discussing Owen's work include Dominic Hibberd's Owen the Poet, Dennis Welland's Wilfred Owen : A Critical Study, Douglas Kerr's Wilfred Owen's Voices and the recently published Wilfred Owen: Selected Poems and Letters.

For the collected poems see Owen, W. (1983) Wilfred Owen: The Complete Poems and Fragments/ edited by John Stallworthy, London: Chatto & Windus

Read Wilfred Owen's manuscripts online at the First World War Poetry Digital Archive

You can access a range of resources to support the teaching and learning of Owen's poetry, and the work of other WW1 poets, through the First World War Poetry Digital Archive's Education Area

Students can join the Wilfred Owen Association from just £12.

Voices in War video Dr Dominic Hibberd and Professor Jon Stallworthy talk about Wilfred Owen in an extract from a film made for the Voices Education Project. 

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is an online repository of over 7000 items of text, images, audio, and video for teaching, learning, and research. The heart of the archive consists of collections of highly valued primary material from major poets of the period, including Wilfred Owen.


Wilfred Owen Bibliography

  • Owen, W. (1920) Poems/ with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon London: Chatto & Windus
  • Owen, W. (1931) The Poems of Wilfred Owen/ edited with a memoir and notes by Edmund Blunden, London: Chatto & Windus
  • Owen, W. (1963) The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen/ edited with an introduction and notes by C. Day Lewis, and with a memoir by Edmund Blunden, London: Chatto & Windus
  • Owen, W. (1973)  Wilfred Owen War Poems and Others / edited by Dominic Hibberd, London: Chatto and Windus
  • Owen, W. (1983) Wilfred Owen: The Complete Poems and Fragments/ edited by Jon Stallworthy, London: Chatto & Windus
  • Owen, W. (1994) The War Poems of Wilfred Owen/ edited and introduced by Jon Stallworthy, London: Chatto & Windus
  • Owen, W. (2004) Wilfred Owen/ Poems Selected by Jon Stallworthy, London: Faber and Faber
  • Owen, H. and Bell, J. (eds.) (1967) Collected Letters, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Bell, J. (ed.) (1985) Selected Letters, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Owen, H. (1963) Journey from Obscurity: Memoirs of the Owen Family, Vol.1, Childhood Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Owen, H. (1964) Journey from Obscurity: Memoirs of the Owen Family, Vol.2, Youth, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Owen, H. (1965) Journey from Obscurity: Memoirs of the Owen Family, Vol.3, War, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Owen, H. (1968) Journey from Obscurity, Oxford: Oxford University Press (School edition/ abridged and edited by H.M. Gornall)
  • Owen, H. (1970) Aftermath, Oxford: OUP
  • Welland, D. (1960) Wilfred Owen: A Critical Study, London: Chatto & Windus
  • Silkin, J. (1972) Out of Battle: The Poetry of the Great War, London: Oxford University Press
  • Stallworthy, J. (1974) Wilfred Owen, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • MacDonald, S. (1983) Not about Heroes, London: Faber & Faber (play)
  • Hibberd, D. (1986) Owen the Poet, Basingstoke: Macmillan
  • Simcox, K. (1987) Wilfred Owen: Anthem for a Doomed Youth, London: Woburn
  • Barker, P. (1991) Regeneration, London: Viking (book one in the Regeneration Trilogy)
  • Hibberd, D. (1992) Wilfred Owen: The Last Year 1917-1918, London: Constable
  • Kerr, D. (1993) Wilfred Owen's Voices, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • McPhail, H. (1993) Portrait of Wilfred Owen: Poet and Soldier, 1893-1918, Petersfield: Gliddon Books in association with the Wilfred Owen Association
  • Williams, M. (1993) Wilfred Owen, Bridgend: Seren Books
  • McPhail, H. and Guest, P. (1998) Wilfred Owen, London: Leo Cooper (part of the Battleground Europe. On the Trail of the Poets of the Great War series)
  • Hibberd, D. (2002) Wilfred Owen: A New Biography, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (HB)
  • Hibberd, D. (2003) Wilfred Owen: A New Biography, London: Phoenix (PB)
  • Stallworthy, J and Potter, J (eds) (2011) Three Poets of the First World War: Ivor Gurney, Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfred Owen, London: Penguin
  • Stallworthy, J. (2013) Wilfred Owen Londo,: Pimlico (PB) [ Revised edition of 1974 work]
  • Cuthbertson, G. (2014) Wilfred Owen, London:Yale
  • Potter, J and Stallworthy, J (2014) Wilfred Owen: An Illustrated Life, Oxford: Bodleian Library Publishing

Dulce et Decorum Est surprises from the start. The opening lines contain words such as bent, beggars, sacks, hags, cursed, haunting, trudge - this is the language of poverty and deprivation, hardly suitable for the glory of the battlefield where heroes are to be found.

Yet this is precisely what the poet intended. Figurative language fights with literal. This is no ordinary march. Most seem asleep, from exhaustion no doubt, suggesting that a dream world isn't too far distant, unlike the resting place they're headed for.

The second stanza's first line brings the reader directly in touch with the unfolding drama and, although these are soldiers, men (as well as old beggars and hags), the simple word boys seems to put everything into perspective.

Note the internal line by line assonance, for example:

double/under/cursed/sludge/haunting/turned/trudge.

And again with drunk/fumbling/clumsy/stumbling/under/plunges/guttering/flung/corrupted/lungs/cud/dulce,throughout the poem this is almost like the background rumbling of distant explosions.

Alliteration occurs in lines five, eleven and nineteen:

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But someonestill was yelling out and stumbling,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

The iambic pentameter is dominant but occasional lines break with this rhythm - line sixteen in the third stanza - reflecting the strangeness of the situation.

outstripped Five-Nines refers to the type of shell being used, 5.9 calibre, which were not up to the speed of other shells used.

like a devil's sick of sin is a right in your face simile, whatever you think a devil looks like, one that has gone beyond the pale.

bitter as the cud is a term used in farming, where cud is the half digested food of ruminants which is chewed again to make it digestible. The suggestion is that the blood coming up from the lungs has to be chewed by the poor dying man. A sobering image. Note the first line of Owen's poem Anthem For Doomed Youth - What passing bells for these who die as cattle?

zest means enthusiasm.

ardent means passionate

The latin ending is perhaps a gentle reminder of many a slogan, many a motto and maxim held dear by clubs, military units, teams and families as an expression of belief and ideals. These are often displayed in latin which was of course the language of the ancient Romans.

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