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Wilfred Owen Analysis
Transcript of Wilfred Owen Analysis
After the blast of lightning from the east,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot throne,
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased
And from the bronze west long retreat is blown,
Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul, all tears assuage?
Or fill these void veins full again with youth
And wash with an immortal water age?
When I do ask white Age, he saith not so, --
"My head hangs weighed with snow."
And when I hearken to the Earth she saith
"My fiery heart sinks aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified
Nor my titanic tears the seas be dried."
‘Asleep’ depicts the death of a soldier as in ‘Dolce et Decorum Est ’. However, unlike ‘Dolce et Decorum Est’ the descriptions of death in ‘Asleep’ does not reveal the brutal realities of war and dying at war “gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs”. In this WO uses explicit language and sets an angry disgusted tone to the poem, whereas Asleep maintains subtle anger and reflective tone.
The first stanza of ‘Futility’ views death in the opposite way to ‘Asleep’, there a soldier is desperately trying to wake his friend up “Move him into the sun-” “Always it woke him,”. The Sun is personified here rather than blood.
‘Has your Soul Sipped’ this like ‘Asleep’ states the relief death brings to soldiers, however it beautifies death rather than focusing on the horror of death; “his life sweetness bled into a smile”
WO uses an extended metaphor, liking death to sleep. The overall message of the poem is that the horror of war make living unbearable and so soldier wish for a ‘deeper sleep’. Dreading the time when they wake up.
Parable Of The Old Man 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 stretched 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. Behold,A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Analysis, Terminology and concepts
A02: Language, structure and form.
“deeper sleep lie shaded […] on calm pillows of God's making” Compares heaven to sleep and questioning whether God will protect him from “these sleets of lead, And these winds' scimitars” WO tone towards nature is more aggressive and critical than previous poems, the metaphor sleets of lead and wind scimitars , shows how even mother nature seems to be attacking them. He then considers if people just die and decompose with no real sanctuary to escape to “thin and sodden head” becomes confused with mould “His hair being one with the grey grass […] of wire-scrags rusty-old”
Shows how soldiers do not get the proper burial they deserve instead their sacrifice and honour is left to decompose as if worth no more than the weapons they used.
“Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!” Repetition & alliteration of ‘who’ and the use of sibilance and short sentences makes the questions quite soft and passive. The narrator seems to care less about the answer as he asks more questions. Clearly shown when he exclaims “let it pass!” . An abrupt interruption to the questions, which is in contrast to the mellow questions.
Sibilance and repetition continues, “sleeps and less” brings back the peace and mellow tones. As he is at peace unlike the soldiers. “we who wake and waking say Alas!” This reiterates his point at the beginning that living is crueller than death. The use of colloquial language “Alas! connotes the dejection and lack of hope felt as they live to see another day, which is the great irony of this poem.
Ao2: Language, Form and Structure
The poem closely follows the word of the Bible (Genesis) to illustrate the senselessness of war . Also shows how war goes against religion, as in the poem Abraham kills his son instead of the goat, implying that the government is killing its people when God himself doesn’t want them to.
Wilfred Owen often struggles to grasp how war can co exist with religion, in this poem he decides that war is disregarding the word of God.
Does not use lots of literary devices, writing is not stylistic, quite straightforward storybook style. Surprisingly this manages to add tension with the abrupt way the mood changes; “Then Abraham bound-” .
It is an extended metaphor, with no rhyme scheme, war terms are used to show his true meaning; “trenches” “belts and straps”.
Sibilance; “slew his son” the repeated s sound resonates and
Metaphor; “half the seed of Europe, one by one”
Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After so many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
There, in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There heaved a quakingOf 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 intruding 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
Of finished fields, and wire-scrags rusty-old,
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold,
Than we who wake, and waking say Alas!
A02: Language, structure and form.
-Rhyme scheme is ‘idiosyncratic’. Which means a behaviour or structural order ‘unique to an individual’.
-There are 4 irregular stanzas
The use of ‘under’ makes the helmet seem bigger than it is and as if it is wearing him rather than the soldier wearing it on his head. It is an exaggeration that plays on the insignificance of the soldier himself, when he's not in battle. ‘Sleep’ is personified as a being of kindness. A benevolent creature that brings the reprieve of rest to this weary and tired (emphasized by use of ‘many days of work…’) soldier. Emphasis on work and waking shows that the simple act of living is as bad as the act of war...
“soon the slow, stray blood” The sibilance adds a ‘creeping’ slow and tired effect to the first line of the stanza, so you speak in the same slow staccato rhythm as the blood creeps from the body. Personification of blood as something feared and unwanted which needs to hide its presence by creeping slowly. The word ‘stray’ could also link to how it is lost and has drifted from where it belongs- inside the body of the soldier - to where it does not. The adjective “intruding” links to the concept of unwanted/ stray items. Like the blood it doesn’t belong there. “like ants on track” This simile
A Soldiers Dream pg 69
This poem follows along the lines of ‘Parable of the Old man and the Young’ as they both condemn war for going against the teachings of Christianity.
‘Parable’ uses a story from the Bible as a allegory to the war showing the illogical madness of it. ‘ASD’ almost follows on from that as it plainly states soldiers wishes; “I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big gun bears” and that God is angry because of the war so lets the war carry on; “God was vexed [...] he had seen to all our repairs”.
This seems to present God in a negative light and ends in a slightly mocking tone. As God is blamed for letting the war carry one. It focuses on showing the desperation soldiers felt and feeling abandonment by God.
The poem questions if war is worth the lives lost, if the end of war or even end of time will see the end of pain and suffering. It also uses religious references; ”all death annul, all tears assuage” paraphrasing the book of revelations, which is too do with the end of time. The poem shows the progressing loss of faith WO experiences. As he turns to figures of nature for answers. “white age” “Earth”
A petrachan sonnet, uses pararhymes.
“Lightning form the east” and “bronze west long retreat” symbolize the warring countries. Uses rhetorical Questions, as sonnets are typically trying to answer a question, which he attempts to resolve in the 2nd stanza, unlike his other sonnets.
Personifies earth, compares the destruction of nature to the death of soldiers “fiery heart sinks aching” – men dying on the battlefield often sunk into the mud.
“Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified”- soldiers are forgotten and left to die gracelessly, mines are like scars on earth.
“titanic tears the seas be dried” – loved ones left behind will never stop hurting as seas will never get dried out.
‘The End’ is similar to ‘Futility’, both display how fatuous war is; “Shall life renew these bodies?” by questioning life after death and after the war. In both poems he reaches no conclusion, other than the pain and sorrow will never go away; “Fill these void veins full again with youth”. He thereby states that war is not worth the sacrifice of the soldiers lives “Was it for this the clay grew tall”.
Both poems use the personification of nature to highlight the destruction the war has caused; “Move him into the sun- Gently it’s touch woke him once” His faith in nature and good conquering evil is lost as the poem progresses; “Are sides full nerved too hard too stir?” There he questions the strength of nature, as if it is so powerful why can’t it heal his dying friend. This accusatory tone, is not present in ‘The End’ as nature is instead given a voice and the comparison between the damage done to the Earth in the battlefield and the humans is made; “my titanic tears the seas be dried”.
Both poems are sonnets, while ‘The End’ follows Shakespearean model of sonnets closely, as it is split into an octet and a sestet, as well attempting to reach an answer in the last stanza. ‘Futility’ deviates from traditional sonnet forms, on the volta it only asks more questions rather than find answers. This shows how war cannot fit into the confined structure of a sonnet as it escapes all reasoning and follows no order or logic. While it may seem that ‘The End’ contradicts this point, it only superficially assumes the form of a sonnet. As the resolution is that of hopelessness and sorrow from the lives lost. This is opposite to usual sonnets which generally revolve around the theme of love.