Wilfred Owen was a man who wrote some of the most famous war poetry in history during WW1. Sadly he never got to see his most famous works of poetry published and read all around the world because on November the 4th of 1918 he was shot during an assault, one week before the armistice was declared. Wilfred had a remarkable gift to make pen and paper come to life, a gift to transform words into deep vivid images of what he experienced and felt on the battlefield. However it wasn’t just his own experiences he wrote about, he wrote in a way that represented all soldiers and showed us the true nature of war. Today I will be breaking down 2 of his most famous poems, Exposure and Anthem for doomed youth and discuss how it makes me feel and how Wilfred used certain language techniques too help create his beautiful poetry.
“Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . . “
A short yet vivid sentence. The use of a metaphor “winds that knive us” creates another level of depth in the poem making it feel more literal which immerses me more. Wilfred Owen not only uses a metaphor here but Personification too, making it seem as if the wind was a person knifing the men. Perhaps Wilfred has done so to give the perspective that the wind isnt just weather but an enemy also, that the men must fight too.
To me the the sentence means something a bit deeper than this so I shall continue a further analysis
Ever had brain freeze before? I am reminded of that awful feeling a brain freeze triggers after reading over the first line of exposure. It feels like snow running down your spine on a cold winter, expect it’s worse because its on the inner of your body growing a numbness in your head. However this wasn’t the only thing the men had to deal with during the events that take place in this poem, the wind had a presence too. I have only been caught in icy winds that take place during ski days where the weather takes a turn for the worst, but even then I’m clothed tightly in a warm nylon jacket and fluffy pants. My face being the only part of my body that is exposed to the winds takes the full impact of the weather. It is unpleasant to say the least, in my experiences it feels like hands are gripping tightly around my face causing me to struggle for air and the feeling of pins and needles scurries across my face too. However I am just a boy going on a ski trip and they are soldiers fighting in an international war with near to no protection from the unforgiving weather. Just one blanket, one pair of boots, one gun and one uniform that was meant to last the course of the war. I have sympathy for these soldiers because who deserves to be exposed to such brutal weather, the kind of weather that “Knives” mens skin. The kind of weather that takes the men’s minds of the war, and bullets and guns. The kind of weather that affects every soldiers with a beating heart on that cruel battlefield. These men were not just fighting each other they were fighting the weather. Wilfred inst just writing how cold the weather was for him, he is writing on behalf of all the soldiers. Hypothetically if a solider from the other side of the trenches were to read the first line from Wilfred’s poem he would nod his head in agreement, in fact he may agree with the content of the entire poem. This is the magic of Wilfred Owens poetry, it is so cleverly done and opens your eyes to new things that you never though about before.
Anthem for doomed youth
“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.”
What is holy about boys being slaughtered in a place where man should not step foot in? Young innocent boys such as myself were killed thousands upon thousands. The boys will never get honored the righteous way they deserve, there will be no candles lit for them. The only thing that comes close to a candle light for these boys is the glimmer in their dead eyes as they are sent from the living to the families memories where they will be cherished forever. Quite ironic wouldn’t you say, what is holy about saying goodbye? In this day and age those who served and died for their country are commended at ceremonies and respected for their bravery on an individual level. Boys in WW1 were pilled, burned and put in the back of our memories as the war continued on. Numbers of dead were only rising so I understand that there was little time to give the boys the respectful send away they deserved but I believe this boils down to a couple key points. The war wasn’t about gunfire, bombs, death and conflict it was something much worse than that. It was Mans sick greed for power that drived these boys to their deaths, not the end of a gun but the real motives behind any war. Where is the holiness in dying for your country when you are going to end up on a headstone with the words unknown solider engraved above and a broken hearted family that will never get to see their loved one/ones again. What is holy about being killed by your own species in a conflict for power? I believe religious beliefs can mislead those who have faith during times when there are no gods. The boys are dead and didn’t deserve to die so are they really in a better place now? I am not a religious person but I believe the best way to respect the dead is to let their memory live on, tell stories of those you once knew and keep them alive in your life. Perhaps there is no holy lands beyond the world we live in so maybe the best option we have is to enjoy what we have but perhaps there is an after life. Even so why would we pray they are in a better place without being sure when we can just be happy for who they were and what they did.
Inspired by Genius
“The only thing that comes close to a candle light for these boys is the glimmer in their dead eyes as they are sent”
How does it make me feel/what do I see
Repetition, Metaphors, Similes, Symbolism, Tone
Anthem for doomed youth
Metaphors, Tone, Rhetorical question, Pathos, Personification