Wilfred Owen, 18th March 1893 – 4th November 1918
Today marks the 95th anniversary of the World War I poet, Wilfred Owen’s death. He was killed in France, just a week before the Armistice was signed. According to contemporary reports, his poor mother received the news of his death on Armistice Day, as the local church bells pealed out in celebration of the end of the Great War.
I love the truth of Owen’s poetry, although it is heart-rending. This below, Anthem for Doomed Youth is one that resonates very deeply, and it is the very last line that has sealed the poem in my mind. I see that line very clearly and it whispers in my ear often.
Today, a historian, Matthew Ward tweeted an image of another poem by Wilfred Owen Dulce et Decorum est. It is a handwritten draft, and like the poem above has annotations from another war poet, Siegfried Sassoon.
There are more changes than are made on Anthem. Dulce et Decorum est is where ‘gargling’ goes through many transitions, until it becomes ‘guttering’ – as the poet searches for just the right word. Choosing the ‘right’ verb to describe the nightmare of the theatre of war… could there be a harder job as a poet?
Terrible, beautiful words that still stand testament to the waste of life in war.