Wilfred Owen
Overview
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 and gas
Poison gas in World War I
The use of chemical weapons in World War I ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of...

 warfare was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

 and stood in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at the time, and to the confidently patriotic verse written earlier by war poets such as Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke
Rupert Chawner Brooke was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially The Soldier...

.
Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,Till on the haunting flares we turned our backsAnd towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their bootsBut limped on, blood-shod.

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.

He dropped, — more sullenly than wearily,Lay stupid like a cod, heavy like meat,And none of us could kick him to his feet;— Just blinked at my revolver, blearily;— Didn't appear to know a war was on,Or see the blasted trench at which he stared.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattleCan patter out their hasty orisons.No mockeries now 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.

Encyclopedia
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

 (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 and gas
Poison gas in World War I
The use of chemical weapons in World War I ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century. The killing capacity of...

 warfare was heavily influenced by his friend Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

 and stood in stark contrast to both the public perception of war at the time, and to the confidently patriotic verse written earlier by war poets such as Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke
Rupert Chawner Brooke was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially The Soldier...

. Some of his best-known works — most of which were published posthumously — are "Dulce et Decorum Est
Dulce et Decorum Est
Dulce et Decorum est is a poem written by poet Wilfred Owen in 1917, during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. Owen's poem is known for its horrific imagery and condemnation of war. It was drafted at Craiglockhart in the first half of October 1917 and later revised, probably at...

", "Insensibility
Insensibility
Insensibility is a poem written by Wilfred Owen during the First World War which explores the effect of warfare on soldiers, and the long and short term psychological effects which it has on them. The poem's title refers to the fact that the soldiers have lost the ability to feel due to the horrors...

", "Anthem for Doomed Youth
Anthem for Doomed Youth
"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a well-known poem written by Wilfred Owen which incorporates the themes of the horror of war.It employs the traditional form of a petrarchan sonnet, but it uses the rhyme scheme of an English sonnet. Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals...

", "Futility
Futility (poem)
Futility is a poem by Wilfred Owen, possibly the most renowned poet of the First World War, written in May of 1918 and published as no. 153 in 'The Complete Poems and Fragments'. The poem is well-known for its departure from Owen's famous style of including disturbing and graphic images in his...

" and "Strange Meeting
Strange Meeting (poem)
Strange Meeting is a poem by Wilfred Owen. It deals with the atrocities of World War I. The poem was written sometime in 1918 and it was published in 1919 after Owen's death...

".

Early life

Wilfred Owen was born the eldest of four children in a house near Oswestry
Oswestry
Oswestry is a town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, close to the Welsh border. It is at the junction of the A5, A483, and A495 roads....

 in Shropshire
Shropshire
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...

 called Plas Wilmot on 18 March 1893, of mixed English and Welsh ancestry. His siblings were Harold, Colin, and Mary Millard Owen. At that time, his parents, Thomas and Harriet Susan (Shaw) Owen, lived in a comfortable house owned by his grandfather but, on his death in 1897, the family was forced to move to lodgings in the back streets of Birkenhead
Birkenhead
Birkenhead is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, England. It is on the Wirral Peninsula, along the west bank of the River Mersey, opposite the city of Liverpool...

. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School (now The Wakeman School
Wakeman School
The Wakeman School and Arts College is a co-educational comprehensive school located in Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, England. The school is the only secondary school in the town centre, located just to the east of the English Bridge...

), and discovered his vocation in 1903 or 1904 during a holiday spent in Cheshire
Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

. Owen was raised as an Anglican of the evangelical school, and in his youth was a devout believer, in part due to his strong relationship with his mother, which was to last throughout his life. His early influences included the 'big six' of romantic poetry
Romantic poetry
Romanticism, a philosophical, literary, artistic and cultural era which began in the mid/late-1700s as a reaction against the prevailing Enlightenment ideals of the day , also influenced poetry...

, particularly John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

, and the Bible.

Shortly after leaving school in 1911, Owen passed the matriculation
Matriculation
Matriculation, in the broadest sense, means to be registered or added to a list, from the Latin matricula – little list. In Scottish heraldry, for instance, a matriculation is a registration of armorial bearings...

 exam for the University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

, but not with the first-class honours needed for a scholarship (his studies suffered as Owen mourned the loss of his uncle and role model, Edgar Hilton in a hunting accident) which in his family's circumstances was the only way he could have afforded to attend.

In return for free lodging, and some tuition for the entrance exam, Owen worked as lay assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden near Reading
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

 and as a pupil-teacher at Wyle Cop School. He then attended classes at University College, Reading (now the University of Reading
University of Reading
The University of Reading is a university in the English town of Reading, Berkshire. The University was established in 1892 as University College, Reading and received its Royal Charter in 1926. It is based on several campuses in, and around, the town of Reading.The University has a long tradition...

), in botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 and later, at the urging of the head of the English Department, free lessons in Old English. His time spent at Dunsden parish led him to disillusionment with the church, both in its ceremony and its failure to provide aid for those in need.

Prior to the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, he worked as a private tutor teaching English and French at the Berlitz School of Languages
Berlitz Language Schools
Berlitz Corporation is a global leadership training and education company with headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey and Tokyo, Japan. The company was founded in 1878 by Maximilian D. Berlitz in Providence, Rhode Island...

 in Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, France. There he met the older French poet Laurent Tailhade
Laurent Tailhade
Laurent Tailhade was a French satirical poet, anarchist polemicist, essayist, and translator, active in Paris in the 1890s and early 1900s...

, with whom he later corresponded in French.

War service

On 21 October 1915, he enlisted in the Artists' Rifles
Artists' Rifles
The Artists Rifles is a volunteer regiment of the British Army. Raised in London in 1859 as a volunteer light infantry unit, the regiment saw active service during the Boer Wars and World War I, earning a number of battle honours; however, it did not serve outside of Britain during World War II, as...

 Officers' Training Corps. For the next seven months, he trained at Hare Hall Camp in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. On 4 June 1916 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

 (on probation) in The Manchester Regiment
The Manchester Regiment
The Manchester Regiment was a regiment of the British army, formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 63rd Regiment of Foot and the 96th Regiment of Foot...

. Owen started the war as a cheerful and optimistic man, but he soon changed forever. Initially, he held his troops in contempt for their loutish behaviour, and in a letter to his mother described his company as "expressionless lumps". However, Owen's outlook on the war was to be changed dramatically after two traumatic experiences. Firstly, he was blown high into the air by a trench mortar, landing among the remains of a fellow officer. Soon after, he became trapped for days in an old German dugout. After these two events, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock
Shell Shock
Shell Shock, also known as 82nd Marines Attack was a 1964 film by B-movie director John Hayes. The film takes place in Italy during World War II, and tells the story of a sergeant with his group of soldiers....

 and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 for treatment. It was whilst recuperating at Craiglockhart that he met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

, an encounter which was to transform Owen's life.

After a period of convalescence in Northern Ireland, then a short spell working as a teacher in nearby Tynecastle High School
Tynecastle High School
Tynecastle High School is a secondary school in South West Edinburgh, Scotland.-Headteacher and SMT:The Headteacher is Tom Rae. He is assisted by his depute heads Elizabeth Turnbull, Jacqueline Ramsay and Jim Brown.-History:...

, he returned to light regimental duties. In March 1918, he was posted to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon
Ripon
Ripon is a cathedral city, market town and successor parish in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, located at the confluence of two streams of the River Ure in the form of the Laver and Skell. The city is noted for its main feature the Ripon Cathedral which is architecturally...

. A number of poems were composed in Ripon, including "Futility" and "Strange Meeting". His 25th birthday was spent quietly in Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and the mother church of the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, situated in the small North Yorkshire city of Ripon, England.-Background:...

.

After returning to the front, Owen led units of the Second Manchesters on 1 October 1918 to storm a number of enemy strong points near the village of Joncourt
Joncourt
Joncourt is a commune in the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France.It lies near the St. Quentin Canal.-History:On 1 October 1918 during World War I, a battle was fought there that was described by the Allied media at that time as "the Miracle of the War", the 46th Division broke through...

. However, only one week before the end of the war, whilst attempting to traverse a canal, he was shot in the head and killed. The news of his death, on 4 November 1918, was given to his mother on Armistice Day
Armistice Day
Armistice Day is on 11 November and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day...

. For his courage and leadership in the Joncourt action, he was awarded the Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

, an award which he had always sought in order to justify himself as a war poet, but the award was not gazetted
London Gazette
The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published...

 until 15 February 1919. The citation followed on 30 July 1919:

Poetry

Owen is regarded by historians as the leading poet of the First World War, known for his war poetry on the horrors of trench and gas warfare. He had been writing poetry for some years before the war, himself dating his poetic beginnings to a stay at Broxton by the Hill, when he was ten years old. The Romantic poets Keats and Shelley influenced much of Owen's early writing and poetry. His great friend, the poet Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

, later had a profound effect on Owen's poetic voice, and Owen's most famous poems ("Dulce et Decorum Est
Dulce et Decorum Est
Dulce et Decorum est is a poem written by poet Wilfred Owen in 1917, during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. Owen's poem is known for its horrific imagery and condemnation of war. It was drafted at Craiglockhart in the first half of October 1917 and later revised, probably at...

" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth
Anthem for Doomed Youth
"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a well-known poem written by Wilfred Owen which incorporates the themes of the horror of war.It employs the traditional form of a petrarchan sonnet, but it uses the rhyme scheme of an English sonnet. Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals...

") show direct results of Sassoon's influence. The novel Regeneration
Regeneration (novel)
For the 1997 film adaptation of the novel see Regeneration .Regeneration is a prize-winning novel by Pat Barker, first published in 1991. The novel was a Booker Prize nominee and was described by the New York Times Book Review as one of the four best novels of the year in its year of publication...

by Pat Barker
Pat Barker
Pat Barker CBE, FRSL is an English writer and novelist. She has won many awards for her fiction, which centres around themes of memory, trauma, survival and recovery. Her work is described as direct, blunt and plainspoken.-Personal life:...

 shows this relationship closely. Manuscript copies of the poems survive, annotated in Sassoon's handwriting. Owen's poetry would eventually be more widely acclaimed than that of his mentor. While his use of pararhyme
Pararhyme
Pararhyme, also known as partial or imperfect rhyme is a term devised by the poet Edmund Blunden to describe a near rhyme in which the consonants in two words are the same, but the vowels are different. It is distinguished from half rhyme in that all the consonants should match rather than just the...

, with its heavy reliance on assonance
Assonance
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

, was innovative, he was not the only poet at the time to use these particular techniques. He was, however, one of the first to experiment with it extensively.

As for his poetry itself, it underwent significant changes in 1917. As a part of his therapy at Craiglockhart, Owen's doctor, Arthur Brock, encouraged Owen to translate his experiences, specifically the experiences he relived in his dreams, into poetry. Sassoon, who was becoming influenced by Freudian
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

, aided him here, showing Owen through example what poetry could do. Sassoon's use of satire influenced Owen, who tried his hand at writing "in Sassoon's style". Further, the content of Owen's verse was undeniably changed by his work with Sassoon. Sassoon's emphasis on realism
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 and 'writing from experience' was contrary to Owen's hitherto romantic-influenced style, as seen in his earlier sonnets. Owen was to take both Sassoon's gritty realism and his own romantic notions and create a poetic synthesis that was both potent and sympathetic, as summarised by his famous phrase 'the pity of war'. In this way, Owen's poetry is quite distinctive, and he is, by many, considered a greater poet than Sassoon. Nonetheless, Sassoon contributed to Owen's popularity by his strong promotion of his poetry, both before and after Owen's death, and his editing was instrumental in the making of Owen as a poet.

Thousands of poems were published during the war, but very few of them had the benefit of such strong patronage, and it is as a result of Sassoon's influence, as well as support from Edith Sitwell
Edith Sitwell
Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE was a British poet and critic.-Background:Edith Sitwell was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, the oldest child and only daughter of Sir George Sitwell, 4th Baronet, of Renishaw Hall; he was an expert on genealogy and landscaping...

 and the editing of his poems into a new anthology in 1931 by Edmund Blunden
Edmund Blunden
Edmund Charles Blunden, MC was an English poet, author and critic. Like his friend Siegfried Sassoon, he wrote of his experiences in World War I in both verse and prose. For most of his career, Blunden was also a reviewer for English publications and an academic in Tokyo and later Hong Kong...

 that ensured his popularity, coupled with a revival of interest in his poetry in the 1960s which plucked him out of a relatively exclusive readership into the public eye. Though he had plans for a volume of verse, for which he had written a "Preface", he never saw his own work published apart from those poems he included in The Hydra
The Hydra
The Hydra was a magazine produced by the patients of the Craiglockhart War Hospital, noteworthy for having been edited at one time by Wilfred Owen, and for including poems by Siegfried Sassoon....

, the magazine he edited at the Craiglockhart War Hospital and 'Miners' which was published in "The Nation".

There were many other influences on Owen's poetry, including his mother. His letters to her provide us with insight into Owen's life at the front, as well as the development of his philosophy regarding the war. Graphic details of the horror Owen witnessed were never spared. Owen's experiences with religion also heavily influenced his poetry, notably in poems such as Anthem for Doomed Youth
Anthem for Doomed Youth
"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a well-known poem written by Wilfred Owen which incorporates the themes of the horror of war.It employs the traditional form of a petrarchan sonnet, but it uses the rhyme scheme of an English sonnet. Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals...

, in which the ceremony of a funeral is reenacted not in a church, but on the battlefield itself. Owen's experiences in war led him to further challenge his religious beliefs, claiming in his poem Exposure that 'love of God seems dying'.

Literary output

Only five of Owen's poems had been published before his death, one of which was in fragmentary form. His best known poems include "Anthem for Doomed Youth
Anthem for Doomed Youth
"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a well-known poem written by Wilfred Owen which incorporates the themes of the horror of war.It employs the traditional form of a petrarchan sonnet, but it uses the rhyme scheme of an English sonnet. Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals...

", "Futility
Futility (poem)
Futility is a poem by Wilfred Owen, possibly the most renowned poet of the First World War, written in May of 1918 and published as no. 153 in 'The Complete Poems and Fragments'. The poem is well-known for its departure from Owen's famous style of including disturbing and graphic images in his...

", "Dulce Et Decorum Est
Dulce et Decorum Est
Dulce et Decorum est is a poem written by poet Wilfred Owen in 1917, during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. Owen's poem is known for its horrific imagery and condemnation of war. It was drafted at Craiglockhart in the first half of October 1917 and later revised, probably at...

", "The Parable of the Old Men and the Young
The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
The Parable of the Old Men and the Young is a poem by Wilfred Owen which compares the ascent of Abraham to Mount Moriah and his near-sacrifice of Isaac there with the start of World War I...

" and "Strange Meeting". Some of his poems feature in Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

's War Requiem
War Requiem
The War Requiem, Op. 66 is a large-scale, non-liturgical setting of the Requiem Mass composed by Benjamin Britten mostly in 1961 and completed January 1962. Interspersed with the traditional Latin texts, in telling juxtaposition, are settings of Wilfred Owen poems...

.

Owen's full unexpurgated opus is in the academic two-volume work The Complete Poems and Fragments (1994) by Jon Stallworthy. Many of his poems have never been published in popular form.

In 1975 Mrs. Harold Owen, Wilfred's sister-in-law, donated all of the manuscripts, photographs and letters which her late husband had owned to the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

's English Faculty Library. As well as the personal artifacts this also includes all of Wilfred's personal library and an almost complete set of The Hydra
The Hydra
The Hydra was a magazine produced by the patients of the Craiglockhart War Hospital, noteworthy for having been edited at one time by Wilfred Owen, and for including poems by Siegfried Sassoon....

—the magazine of Craiglockhart War Hospital. These can be accessed by any member of the public on application in advance to the English Faculty librarian.

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
The Harry Ransom Center is a library and archive at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the collection of literary and cultural artifacts from the United States and Europe. The Ransom Center houses 36 million literary manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs, and more...

 at the University of Texas at Austin holds a large collection of Wilfred Owen's family correspondence.

Relationship with Sassoon

Owen held Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon CBE MC was an English poet, author and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's...

 in an esteem not far from hero-worship, remarking to his mother that he was "not worthy to light [Sassoon's] pipe." On being discharged from Craiglockhart, Owen was stationed on home-duty in Scarborough for several months, during which time he associated with members of the artistic circle into which Sassoon had introduced him, which included Robert Ross
Robert Baldwin Ross
Robert Baldwin "Robbie" Ross was a Canadian journalist and art critic. He is best known as the executor of the estate of Oscar Wilde, to whom he had been a lifelong friend. He was also responsible for bringing together several great literary figures, such as Siegfried Sassoon, and acting as their...

 and Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

. He also met H.G. Wells and Arnold Bennett
Arnold Bennett
- Early life :Bennett was born in a modest house in Hanley in the Potteries district of Staffordshire. Hanley is one of a conurbation of six towns which joined together at the beginning of the twentieth century as Stoke-on-Trent. Enoch Bennett, his father, qualified as a solicitor in 1876, and the...

, and it was during this period he developed the stylistic voice for which he is now recognised. Many of his early poems were penned while stationed at the Clarence Garden Hotel, now the Clifton Hotel in Scarborough's North Bay. A blue tourist plaque on the hotel marks its association with Owen.

Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

 and Sacheverell Sitwell
Sacheverell Sitwell
Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, 6th Baronet CH was an English writer, best known as an art critic and writer on architecture, particularly the baroque. He was the younger brother of Dame Edith Sitwell and Sir Osbert Sitwell....

 (who also personally knew him) have stated Owen was homosexual, and homoeroticism is a central element in much of Owen's poetry. Through Sassoon, Owen was introduced to a sophisticated homosexual literary circle which included Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

's friend Robbie Ross, writer and poet Osbert Sitwell
Osbert Sitwell
Sir Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell, 5th Baronet, was an English writer. His elder sister was Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell and his younger brother was Sir Sacheverell Sitwell; like them he devoted his life to art and literature....

, and Scottish writer C. K. Scott-Moncrieff
C. K. Scott-Moncrieff
Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff MC was a Scottish writer, most famous for his English translation of most of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, which he published under the Shakespearean title Remembrance of Things Past.-Early life:Scott Moncrieff was born in Stirlingshire, the youngest of...

, the translator of Proust. This contact broadened Owen's outlook, and increased his confidence in incorporating homoerotic elements into his work. Historians have debated whether Owen had an affair with Scott-Moncrieff in May 1918; Scott-Moncrieff had dedicated various works to a "Mr W.O.", but Owen never responded.

The account of Owen's sexual development has been somewhat obscured because his brother, Harold Owen
Harold Owen
Harold Owen was the younger brother of the English poet and soldier, Wilfred Owen.For decades he tried to control the public image of his dead brother. His three-volumed biography of Wilfred, Journey from Obscurity, was for many years, assumed to be an accurate and objective record...

, removed what he considered discreditable passages in Owen's letters and diaries after the death of their mother. Owen also requested that his mother burn a sack of his personal papers in the event of his death, which she did. Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

 wrote of Owen's relationship with Sassoon: "On the one hand, Sassoon's wealth, posh connections and aristocratic manner appealed to the snob in Owen: on the other, Sassoon's homosexuality admitted Owen to a style of living and thinking that he found naturally sympathetic.

Death

In July 1918, Owen returned to active service in France, although he might have stayed on home-duty indefinitely. His decision was almost wholly the result of Sassoon's being sent back to England. Sassoon, who had been shot in the head in a so-called friendly fire incident, was put on sick-leave for the remaining duration of the war. Owen saw it as his patriotic duty to take Sassoon's place at the front, that the horrific realities of the war might continue to be told. Sassoon was violently opposed to the idea of Owen returning to the trenches, threatening to "stab [him] in the leg" if he tried it. Aware of his attitude, Owen did not inform him of his action until he was once again in France.

Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...

 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death. His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day
Armistice Day
Armistice Day is on 11 November and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day...

, as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. He is buried at Ors
Ors
Ors is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.It is located on the Sambre–Oise Canal, in a small wood called Bois l'Évêque.-History:The commune was a theater of intense fighting in November 1918 for control of the canal...

 Communal Cemetery. There are memorials to Wilfred Owen at Gailly, Ors, Oswestry
Oswestry
Oswestry is a town and civil parish in Shropshire, England, close to the Welsh border. It is at the junction of the A5, A483, and A495 roads....

, Birkenhead (Central Library) and Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire, in the West Midlands region of England. Lying on the River Severn, it is a civil parish home to some 70,000 inhabitants, and is the primary settlement and headquarters of Shropshire Council...

.

On 11 November 1985, Owen was one of the 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone is taken from Owen's "Preface" to his poems; "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." There is also a small museum dedicated to Owen and Sassoon at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, now a Napier University
Napier University
Edinburgh Napier is one of the largest higher education institutions in Scotland with over 17,000 students, including nearly 5,000 international students, from more than 100 nations worldwide.-History:...

 building.

Depictions in popular culture

Pat Barker
Pat Barker
Pat Barker CBE, FRSL is an English writer and novelist. She has won many awards for her fiction, which centres around themes of memory, trauma, survival and recovery. Her work is described as direct, blunt and plainspoken.-Personal life:...

's 1991 historical novel Regeneration
Regeneration (novel)
For the 1997 film adaptation of the novel see Regeneration .Regeneration is a prize-winning novel by Pat Barker, first published in 1991. The novel was a Booker Prize nominee and was described by the New York Times Book Review as one of the four best novels of the year in its year of publication...

describes the meeting and relationship between Sassoon and Owen, acknowledging that, from Sassoon's perspective, the meeting had a profoundly significant effect on Owen. Owen's treatment with his own doctor, Arthur Brock, is also touched upon briefly. Owen's death is described in the third book of Barker's Regeneration trilogy, The Ghost Road
The Ghost Road
The Ghost Road is a novel by Pat Barker, first published in 1995 and winner of the Booker Prize. It is the third volume of a trilogy that follows the fortunes of shell-shocked British army officers towards the end of the First World War...

. In the 1997 film
Regeneration (1997 film)
Regeneration is a 1997 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Pat Barker. The film is directed by Gillies MacKinnon. It was released as Behind the Lines in the USA in 1998.-Plot:...

 he was played by Stuart Bunce
Stuart Bunce
Stuart Alexander Bunce is an English actor who is best known for his portrayal of the First World War poet Wilfred Owen in the film Regeneration directed by Gillies MacKinnon.-Biography:...

. The play Not About Heroes
Not About Heroes
Not About Heroes is a drama by Stephen MacDonald about the real-life relationship between the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1982....

by Stephen MacDonald
Stephen MacDonald
Stephen MacDonald was a British actor, director and dramatist.MacDonald was brought up and educated in Birmingham, where he trained as an actor, but subsequently worked extensively in Scotland as a theatre director....

 also takes as its subject matter the friendship between Owen and Sassoon, and begins with their meeting at Craiglockhart during World War I. Owen was mentioned as a source of inspiration for one of the correspondents in the epistolary novel
Epistolary novel
An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use...

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Owen is the subject of the 2007 BBC docudrama Wilfred Owen: A Remembrance Tale
Wilfred Owen: A Remembrance Tale
Wilfred Owen: A Remembrance Tale was a 1-hour 2007 BBC documentary on the life of the First World War poet Wilfred Owen. It was presented by Jeremy Paxman and starred Samuel Barnett as Owen and Deborah Findlay as his mother Susan. It premiered on BBC One on Remembrance Sunday 2007....

, in which he is played by Samuel Barnett
Samuel Barnett (actor)
Samuel Barnett is an English actor. He has performed on stage, film, television and radio, and achieved recognition for his work on the stage and film versions of The History Boys by Alan Bennett...

. His poetry has been reworked into various formats, such as The Ravishing Beauties' recording of Owen's poem Futility in an April 1982 John Peel
John Peel
John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, OBE , known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist. He was the longest-serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004...

 session. Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

 incorporated nine of Owen's poems into his War Requiem
War Requiem
The War Requiem, Op. 66 is a large-scale, non-liturgical setting of the Requiem Mass composed by Benjamin Britten mostly in 1961 and completed January 1962. Interspersed with the traditional Latin texts, in telling juxtaposition, are settings of Wilfred Owen poems...

, opus 66, along with words from the Latin Mass for the Dead (Missa pro Defunctis). The Requiem was commissioned for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral, also known as St Michael's Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, in Coventry, West Midlands, England. The current bishop is the Right Revd Christopher Cocksworth....

, and first performed there on 30 May 1962. A screen adaptation was made by Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman
Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman was an English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author.-Life:...

 in 1988, with the 1963 recording as the soundtrack.

In 1982, "Anthem for Doomed Youth
Anthem for Doomed Youth
"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a well-known poem written by Wilfred Owen which incorporates the themes of the horror of war.It employs the traditional form of a petrarchan sonnet, but it uses the rhyme scheme of an English sonnet. Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals...

" was set to music and recorded by the 10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs is a United States-based alternative rock band, which formed in 1981 and continues to be active with various line-ups.-1981–1993:...

 in Fredonia, New York
Fredonia, New York
Fredonia is a village in Chautauqua County, New York, United States. The population was 11,068 as of 2009.The Village of Fredonia is in the Town of Pomfret south of Lake Erie...

. The recording appeared on their first EP release Human Conflict Number Five
Human Conflict Number Five
Human Conflict Number Five was the debut EP by 10,000 Maniacs. It was released in 1982 on their Christian Burial Music label.-Track listing:#"Tension" - 3:18#"Planned Obsolescence" - 4:22...

 and later on the compilation Hope Chest
Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983
Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983 is a 1990 album by 10,000 Maniacs. It compiles tracks from their early releases Human Conflict Number Five and Secrets of the I Ching...

. The song is unique in the oeuvre of the group as the poem is sung by guitarist John Lombardo
John Lombardo
John Lombardo was one of the founding members of the alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs and one of the band's most influential members, writing much of its early material.- Biography :...

, not lead singer Natalie Merchant
Natalie Merchant
Natalie Anne Merchant is an American singer-songwriter and musician. She joined the alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs in 1981 and left it to begin her solo career in 1993.-Early life:...

 (who sings back-up vocals on the track). Also in 1982, singer Virginia Astley
Virginia Astley
Virginia Astley is an English singer-songwriter most active during the 1980s and 1990s. From the start of her songwriting career in 1980, Astley took her inspiration from many sources. Her classical training influenced her as did a desire to be experimental with her music...

 set the poem "Futility
Futility (poem)
Futility is a poem by Wilfred Owen, possibly the most renowned poet of the First World War, written in May of 1918 and published as no. 153 in 'The Complete Poems and Fragments'. The poem is well-known for its departure from Owen's famous style of including disturbing and graphic images in his...

" to music she had composed.

External links

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