He was working as a teacher of English in France when he decided to return to England to enlist.
He was killed in a machine-gun attack just seven days before the armistice
His poems are painful and are about men who have gone mad or men who are clinically alive although their bodies have been destroyed.
He uses a lot of assonances and alliterations that give the poems a haunting quality.
In the preface of his book “Disabled and Other Poems” he says: “This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or land, nor anything about glory, honor, might, majesty, dominion or power, except War. Above all, I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.”
The poet denounces the evils of the war and the pity of the war. His poetry is not about heroes, it is not a patriotic poetry and it is not consolatory; on the contrary, his poetry is just about War and the pity if War. He wants to awaken people’s conscience, he also criticizes war propaganda.
"Dulce et decorum est"
In this poem the poet describes his own experience of the horrors of the war in trenches.
Furthermore, this poem is an attempt to communicate the “pity” of the war to future generations.
The Latin title means “It is sweet and honorable” (quotation by Horace).
In the first stanza the poet introduces the situation describing the retreat of the soldiers
In the second stanza there is the description of the gas attack.
In the third stanza there is the poet’s nightmare
In the fourth stanza there is the description of death and the message of the poem.
The narrator is the poet himself. In fact, we can see that the poet does not write from without but from within the war. In fact, he uses “we”, “our”, “he” or “you” to describe the scene.
He uses onomatopoeic words such as “guttering” (l.16), “chocking” (l.16) and “drowning” (l.16), “hoots” (l.7).
He uses dynamic verbs such as “stumbling” (l.11), “floundering” (l.12), “fumbling”(l.9), “marched asleep” (l.5), “began to trudge (l.4)”.
He uses metaphors such as “drunk with fatigue” (l.7) or “under a green sea”(l.15), or “an ecstasy” (l.9)
He also uses similes: “like old beggars” (l.1), “coughing like hags” (l.2), “like a man in fire or lime” (l.12), “like a devil’s sick of sin” (l.20), “obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud” (l.23).
In the first stanza, he describes the real world of the battlefield whereas at the end of the second stanza he describes an unreal world of the nightmare described in the third stanza.
“The old Lie”: there is nothing decorous or noble to die in war
The theme of this poem is the criticism against the war. It is a Manifesto against the war. Through these antiheroic images, Owen is denouncing the evils and the pity of the war.
Physical sufferings: bent double; coughing; limped on; blood-shod; drunk with fatigue; deaf; yelling; stumbling; floundering; drowning; guttering; choking; smothering; drowning; blood gargling from lungs
Psychological sufferings: haunting; ecstasy; helpless sight;