Wilfred Owen: Poems


General Notes:—

Due to the general circumstances surrounding Wilfred Owen, and his death one week before the war ended, it should be noted that these poems are not all in their final form. Owen had only had a few of his poems published during his lifetime, and his papers were in a state of disarray when Siegfried Sassoon, his friend and fellow poet, put together this volume. The 1920 edition was the first edition of Owen's poems, the 1921 reprint (of which this is a transcript) added one more—and nothing else happened until Edmund Blunden's 1931 edition. Even with that edition, there remained gaps, and several more editions added more and more poems and fragments, in various forms, as it was difficult to tell which of Owen's drafts were his final ones, until Jon Stallworthy's "Complete Poems and Fragments" (1983) included all that could be found, and tried to put them in chronological order, with the latest revisions, etc.

Therefore, it should not be surprising if some or most of these poems differ from later editions.

After Owen's death, his writings gradually gained pre-eminence, so that, although virtually unknown during the war, he came into high regard. Benjamin Britten, the British composer who set nine of Owen's works as the text of his "War Requiem" (shortly after the Second World War), called Owen "by far our greatest war poet, and one of the most original poets of this century." (Owen is especially noted for his use of pararhyme.) Five of those nine texts are some form of poems included here, to wit: 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', 'Futility', 'Parable of the Old Men and the Young', 'The End', and 'Strange Meeting'. The other four were '[Bugles Sang]', 'The Next War', 'Sonnet [Be slowly lifted up]' and 'At a Calvary Near the Ancre'—all of which the reader may wish to pursue, being some of Owen's finest work. Fortunately, the poem which I consider his best, and which is one of his most quoted—'Dulce et Decorum est', is included in this volume.