Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
Owen made the difficult decision to enlist in the army and fight in World War I. He entered the war in January 1917 and fought as an officer in the Battle of the Somme but was hospitalized for shell shock that May. In the hospital he met Siegfried Sassoon, a poet and novelist whose grim antiwar works were in harmony with Owen’s concerns.
Under Sassoon’s care and tutelage, Owen began producing the best work of his short career; his poems are suffused with the horror of battle, and yet finely structured and innovative. Owen’s use of half-rhyme (paring words which do not quite rhyme) gives his poetry a dissonant, disturbing quality that amplifies his themes. He died one year after returning to battle and one week before the war ended in 1918. Owen was awarded the Military Cross for serving in the war with distinction. Full recognition as a highly esteemed poet came after Owen’s death.
Owen was a promising man who was killed in the war. His war poems expose the horror of life in the trenches and satirize the blind jingoism of those who cheered the war from the comfort and safety of their parlors. His poetry is celebrated for its technical excellence and its poignancy. His unique combination of beauty and terror is reminiscent of P.B. Shelley’s poetry. Owen’s considerable body of war poetry, traditional in form, is a passionate expression of outrage at the horrors of war and of pity for the young soldiers sacrificed in it. Of the many poets stimulated to indignant verse by World War I, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Robert Graves rank among the most lastingly important. Sassoon experienced war first hand and gradually became convinced that war was a bad thing for him he says “my subject is war and the pity of war”; for him poetry is in pity, and war is nothing to valorize and glorify. Previously war was thought as a glorious matter; poetry was encouraged in the glory of war. By his time, war poetry has changed and undergone a change in attitude.
Owen mixed irony and pity together. He created a kind of bleak horror. He pictures a very uncertain kind of situation on the battlefield. Owen sought to present the grim realities of warfare. The prominent note of social protest in his works influenced the poets of the 1920s and 1930s. Owens’s verses represent a unique, emotional response to war. As a commissioned officer leading a platoon at the front, Wilfred Owen had experienced the madness of trench warfare first hand. Owens’s poetic technique and imagery derived from the English and French tradition is also symbolic. Owen wrote eloquently of the tragedy of young men killed in battle. In his later elegies, a disciplined sensuality and a passionate intelligence find their fullest, most moving, and most memorable expression.
Shrestha, Roma. "Wilfred Owen - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 19 Nov. 2013, bachelorandmaster.com/biography/wilfred-owen.html.