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Best Famous Wilfred Owen Poems

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Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Futility

 Move him into the sun --
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France, Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds -- Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides Full-nerved, -- still warm, -- too hard to stir? Was it for this the clay grew tall? -- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth's sleep at all?


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

The Parable Of The Old Men And The Young

 So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together, Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father, Behold the preparations, fire and iron, But where the lamb for this burnt-offering? Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps, And builded parapets and trenches there, And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven, Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns, A Ram.
Offer the Ram of Pride instead.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son, And half the seed of Europe, one by one.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Dulce Et Decorum Est

 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.
Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod.
All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.
.
.
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.


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Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Anthem For Doomed Youth

 What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
 Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells, Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -- The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

The Send-Off

 Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray As men's are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp Stood staring hard, Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours: We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells In wild trainloads? A few, a few, too few for drums and yells, May creep back, silent, to still village wells Up half-known roads.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Disabled

 He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow.
Through the park Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn, Voices of play and pleasure after day, Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
About this time Town used to swing so gay When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, -- In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands, All of them touch him like some queer disease.
There was an artist silly for his face, For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace; He's lost his colour very far from here, Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry, And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race, And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg, After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg, He thought he'd better join.
He wonders why .
.
.
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.
That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg, Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts, He asked to join.
He didn't have to beg; Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears Of Fear came yet.
He thought of jewelled hilts For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes; And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears; Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.
Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes, And do what things the rules consider wise, And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come And put him into bed? Why don't they come?


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

The Last Laugh

 'O Jesus Christ! I'm hit,' he said; and died.
Whether he vainly cursed, or prayed indeed, The Bullets chirped - 'In vain! vain! vain!' Machine-guns chuckled, 'Tut-tut! Tut-tut!' And the Big Gun guffawed.
Another sighed, - 'O Mother, Mother! Dad!' Then smiled, at nothing, childlike, being dead.
And the lofty Shrapnel-cloud Leisurely gestured, - 'Fool!' And the falling splinters tittered.
'My Love!' one moaned.
Love-languid seemed his mood, Till, slowly lowered, his whole face kissed the mud.
And the Bayonets' long teeth grinned; Rabbles of Shells hooted and groaned; And the Gas hissed.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Smile Smile Smile

 Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday's Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned; For, said the paper, "When this war is done The men's first instinct will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is aerodromes, It being certain war has just begun.
Peace would do wrong to our undying dead, -- The sons we offered might regret they died If we got nothing lasting in their stead.
We must be solidly indemnified.
Though all be worthy Victory which all bought, We rulers sitting in this ancient spot Would wrong our very selves if we forgot The greatest glory will be theirs who fought, Who kept this nation in integrity.
" Nation? -- The half-limbed readers did not chafe But smiled at one another curiously Like secret men who know their secret safe.
This is the thing they know and never speak, That England one by one had fled to France (Not many elsewhere now save under France).
Pictures of these broad smiles appear each week, And people in whose voice real feeling rings Say: How they smile! They're happy now, poor things.
23rd September 1918.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Asleep

 Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After the many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
And in the happy no-time of his sleeping, Death took him by the heart.
There was a quaking Of the aborted life within him leaping .
.
.
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping From the intrusive lead, like ants on track.
* * * Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars, High pillowed on calm pillows of God's making Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead, And these winds' scimitars; --Or whether yet his thin and sodden head Confuses more and more with the low mould, His hair being one with the grey grass And finished fields of autumns that are old .
.
.
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass! He sleeps.
He sleeps less tremulous, less cold Than we who must awake, and waking, say Alas!


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Arms And The Boy

 Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.
Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth, Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.
For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple; And God will grow no talons at his heels, Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Exposure

 I

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us .
.
.
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent .
.
.
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient .
.
.
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous, But nothing happens.
Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles, Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
What are we doing here? The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow .
.
.
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray, But nothing happens.
Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow, With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew, We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance, But nothing happens.
II Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces -- We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed, Deep into grassier ditches.
So we drowse, sun-dozed, Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
Is it that we are dying? Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there; For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs; Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed -- We turn back to our dying.
Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn; Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid; Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born, For love of God seems dying.
To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us, Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp, Pause over half-known faces.
All their eyes are ice, But nothing happens.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Preface

 This book is not about heroes.
English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, dominion or power, except War.
Above all, this book is not concerned with Poetry.
The subject of it is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are not to this generation, This is in no sense consolatory.
They may be to the next.
All the poet can do to-day is to warn.
That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives Prussia, -- my ambition and those names will be content; for they will have achieved themselves fresher fields than Flanders.
Note.
-- This Preface was found, in an unfinished condition, among Wilfred Owen's papers.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

The Young Soldier

 It is not death
Without hereafter
To one in dearth
Of life and its laughter,

Nor the sweet murder
Dealt slow and even
Unto the martyr
Smiling at heaven:

It is the smile
Faint as a (waning) myth,
Faint, and exceeding small
On a boy's murdered mouth.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Greater Love

 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! Your slender attitude Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed, Rolling and rolling there Where God seems not to care; Till the fierce Love they bear Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.
Your voice sings not so soft, -- Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft, -- Your dear voice is not dear, Gentle, and evening clear, As theirs whom none now hear Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.
Heart, you were never hot, Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot; And though your hand be pale, Paler are all which trail Your cross through flame and hail: Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.


Written by Wilfred Owen | |

Mental Cases

 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.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders, Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander, Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them, Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles, Carnage incomparable and human squander Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.
Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented Back into their brains, because on their sense Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black; Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh -- Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous, Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-- Thus their hands are plucking at each other; Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging; Snatching after us who smote them, brother, Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.