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Has your soul sipped? Wilfred Owen

AS level poetry analysis

Samantha Mitchell

on 14 October 2012

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Transcript of Has your soul sipped? Wilfred Owen

photo (cc) Malte Sörensen @ flickr Themes... Pleasure Context... In June 1917, Owen was admitted to Craiglockhart
war hospital. At this time, the Archbishop of Canterbury had advised that it was no longer fitting to love your enemies. Upon hearing this,
Owen felt that Christianity had died. Has Your Soul Sipped? Wilfred Owen '…thinking of the eyes I have seen made sightless, and the bleeding lad's cheeks I have wiped, I say Vengeance is mine, I, Owen will repay.'

Wilfred Owen

Death Beauty War 'Has your soul sipped?' The word 'soul' has immediate connotations of death therefore it suggests something other worldly. This could have 2 interpretations... s s The use of sibilance in the title sets an appropriately sinister tone for the poem. Head Body Body Body Body Body Body Body Body Body Body Body Body Even though Owen was a Christian
- he was angry with the enemy and
wanted revenge. 1. It indicates that Owen is about to describe a feeling
that is beyond flesh and blood - almost other wordly...
2. It foreshadows the death at the end of the poem -
reminding us of the casualties of war. Plotline
The persona asks the reader whether they have experienced overwhelming pleasure.

He then describes how great his own pleasure is by comparing it to other enjoyable, beautiful and precious experiences.

Finally, we find out that the experience that lead to this pleasure was the murder of an enemy soldier.

Analysis... Has your soul sipped
Of the sweetness of all sweets?
Has it well supped
But yet hungers and sweats?

I have been witness
Of a strange sweetness,
All fancy surpassing
Past all supposing.

Owen uses direct address to engage with the reader... some may be detached but pushes them to think about the content from the outset. 'hungers' and 'sweats' are associated with withdrawal - this suggests that the feeling is so powerful that you could get addicted to it. The use of rhetorical questions also ensourages the reader to engage with the issue. The word 'witness' makes it seem as though Owen has little control. Perhaps it alludes to the fact the the government have forced him into this position. Passing the rays
Of the rubies of morning,
Or the soft rise
Of the moon; or the meaning
Known to the rose
Of her mystery and mourning.

Sweeter than nocturnes
Of the wild nightingale
Or than love's nectar
After life's gall.

'Surpassing' and 'supposing' are examples of pararhyme - this means that they use the same consonants but have different vowels - creating a near rhyme - this can alter flow...

In this case it speeds up the flow reflecting the excitment of the speaker. R The alliterative use of the letter 'r' draws our attention to words 'rubies' and 'rays'. The sun often represents hope Rubies represent things that are valuable and precious -
therefore by using these images - Owen emphasises the beauty of a sunrise (yet his feeling is greater...) The rose is a traditional symbol of love - it also has connotations of mystery therefore knowing the meaning would bring great satisfaction (but Owen's feeling is greater than this...) A nightingale creates beautiful birdsong through the night.
It is a fitting (bittersweet) image as it is the male that sings and can therefore be linked to the soldiers of war who sang to keep their hopes up. “A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.” Keats nectar is sweet - this is another natural image - this time it is one of victory as it overcomes something bitter.

This image is deceptive - it sounds positive but it is about overcoming bitterness and foreshadows the twist in the poem. Sweeter than odours
Of living leaves,
Sweeter than ardours
Of dying loves.

Sweeter than death
And dreams hereafter
To one in dearth
Or life and its laughter.
The images in this section describe positive images from all parts of life - nature (the scent of leaves), humanity (love and passion) and relief (death to someone who has lost all). The use of anaphora reiterates the word 'sweet' - allowing Owen to continually build our expectations for the cause of the positive feeling. Or the proud wound
The victor wears
Or the last end
Of all wars.

Or the sweet murder
After long guard
Unto the martyr
Smiling at God;

In the 7th and 8th stanzas Owen begins to link the images to war. They are positive images about closure and the war ending. 'proud wound' reflects the notion that sacrifice in war is something to be proud of - a concept encouraged by war propaganda. Owen's use of bittersweet images may have been overlooked up to now because of the excited flow and positive vocabulary...
The use of the oxymoron 'sweet murder' forces us to question this concept directly. The person has died for his cause and 'smiles' because this is seen as a worthwhile sacrifice. To me was that smile,
Faint as a wan, worn myth,
Faint and exceeding small,
On a boy's murdered mouth.

'me' - the use of a 1st person pronoun makes the scene and event seem current, more dramatic and even shocking. This places the persona as the murderer. 'The smile is 'faint' this contradicts the previous image. The smile could be faint as it has faded post death.
However, it could be faint as the cause is not as valid as the boy soldier first felt. the use of the word 'myth' has connotations of fictional existence - this reinforces the second interpretation of faint - was he truly happy to die for his country? Repetition of the word 'faint' and 'small' could indicate regret. On the other hand - it could be a reference to the age of the soldier. boy - makes the soldier sound innocent. By this point we are beginning to question the persona. Do we feel as satisfied as he does that a young boy has died? alliteration draws our attention to the 'murdered mouth' - mouths represent freedom of speech,

This is another body who cannot share the attrocities of war.

The poet was the only tool to be able to share this freely. Though from his throat
The life-tide leaps
There was no threat
On his lips.

But with the bitter blood
And the death-smell
All his life's sweetness bled
Into a smile.

'life tide' means blood. The word 'tide' has connotations of the sea and suggests how powerful the stream was. The boy no longer posed a threat as he was dead. Do we feel pleased or appalled by this? the alliterative 'b' in 'bitter blood' has a plosive sound creating an angry tone 'bled into a smile' a graphic image - by refering to the blood as a metaphorical smile it suggests the persona is content at this image. As reader's we are not and begin to doubt the violence and warfare. War Although Owen was prowar at this time, it could be suggested that the overall effect of this poem is antiwar. The reader is left feeling shocked and detached from the speaker who suports the violence of war so strongly. Owen gives an insight to the violence of the war: he uses pararhyme to create a rapid pace, sibilance and plosive letters to create a sinister tone and graphic imagery. Owen recreates the message driven by wartime propaganda that it is not only fitting but satisfying to fight and die for one's country. Purpose?
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