Subversive Historian – 11/04/08

The Death of Wilfred Owen

Exactly ninety years ago on this day in people’s history, World War I took the life of English poet Wilfred Owen. On November 4th, 1918 soldier-poet died during the Battle of Sambre at the age of twenty-five just one week before the war would end. His mother would receive word of his passing on the day of the armistice with church bells ringing proclaiming the peace. The cruelties of war exemplified in Owen’s life and death were also the subject of his well regarded poems. He took up the craft after shell shock sent him away from his first tour of war. While being treated, Owen met the poet Siegfried Sassoon who mentored and encouraged the young man to write. The influence served well, as Owen has come to be hailed as one of the best poet’s of World War I.

His best known work, “It is sweet and right,” contrasts the reality of war with nationalist boasting as it reads, “If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs…You would not tell with such high zest/ to children ardent for some desperate glory/ The old lie”


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