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Best Famous Wilfred Owen Poems

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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.


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!


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.


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.


by Wilfred Owen |

Strange Meeting

 It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned, Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared With piteous recognition in fixed eyes, Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall; With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained; Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground, And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn.
" "None," said the other, "Save the undone years, The hopelessness.
Whatever hope is yours, Was my life also; I went hunting wild After the wildest beauty in the world, Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair, But mocks the steady running of the hour, And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed, And of my weeping something has been left, Which must die now.
I mean the truth untold, The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress, None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery; Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery; To miss the march of this retreating world Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels I would go up and wash them from sweet wells, Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now .
.
.
" (This poem was found among the author's papers.
It ends on this strange note.
) *Another Version* Earth's wheels run oiled with blood.
Forget we that.
Let us lie down and dig ourselves in thought.
Beauty is yours and you have mastery, Wisdom is mine, and I have mystery.
We two will stay behind and keep our troth.
Let us forego men's minds that are brute's natures, Let us not sup the blood which some say nurtures, Be we not swift with swiftness of the tigress.
Let us break ranks from those who trek from progress.
Miss we the march of this retreating world Into old citadels that are not walled.
Let us lie out and hold the open truth.
Then when their blood hath clogged the chariot wheels We will go up and wash them from deep wells.
What though we sink from men as pitchers falling Many shall raise us up to be their filling Even from wells we sunk too deep for war And filled by brows that bled where no wounds were.
*Alternative line --* Even as One who bled where no wounds were.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.