World War One (WWI) Poems

Poems about World War I, also known as the Great War, delve into the profound impact it had on society, culture, and individual lives.

These verses capture the horrors of trench warfare, the sense of disillusionment that engulfed a generation, and the profound grief of families who lost loved ones. They pay tribute to the bravery of soldiers and nurses and reflect on the futility of war and the longing for peace.

Poems about World War I evoke a somber reflection on the toll of conflict and serve as a reminder of the need for compassion and understanding in a rapidly changing world.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

by Wilfred Owen

‘The Parable of the Old Man and the Young’ by Wilfred Owen is an unforgettable poem. In it, Owen uses the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Bible to describe World War I. 

World War I is the unspoken but obvious backdrop to this poem, representing the "half the seed of Europe" that was lost. The poem serves as a condemnation of the pride and stubbornness that led nations into a devastating conflict, forever altering the landscape of the 20th century.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

The Soldier

by Rupert Brooke

‘The Soldier’ is a poem by famed war poet Rupert Brooke. It celebrates the sacrifices of soldiers during World War I.

This poem was written just before the outbreak of World War I and reflects the anxieties and concerns of the time period. The poem suggests that dying for one's country is a noble and honorable act and that the memory of fallen soldiers should be honored.

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

The Fish

by Marianne Moore

‘The Fish’ by Marianne Moore uses imagery and form to objectively describe nature and humanity’s ability to survive and mature in the face of death, destruction, and loss.

'The Fish' is a very universal poem, but if you look closely enough at the vocabulary, it's clear that World War I inspired it. The destruction in this poem applies to the death of civilians and soldiers and the destruction of cities and borders. However, the smaller signs of life in the ocean offer a promise for rebuilding and growth.


 through black jade.

     Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps

     adjusting the ash-heaps;

          opening and shutting itself like


by T.S. Eliot

Once considered as a preface to the major poem ‘The Waste Land’ by T.S. Eliot, ‘Gerontion’ effectively deals with the huge psychological, spiritual, and physical destruction caused by the great war.

Written when World War 1 was nearing its end and eventually the Treaty of Versailles was signed, 'Gerontion' alludes the most to World War 1 out of all Eliot's poems. Through imagery and symbolism, the poem presents destructed landscape, psychological damage, and a critique of political leadership. Notably, 'Gerontion' symbolically refers to the youth lost in the war and the grim future of the living youth amidst the destruction of World War 1.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,

Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.

I was neither at the hot gates

Nor fought in the warm rain

The Waste Land

by T.S. Eliot

‘The Waste Land,’ epitomizing literary modernism, is one of the most important poems of the 20th century portraying its despondent mood in a new form.

The poem indirectly alludes to World War 1 while reflecting on the lost past before the war. The devastation of the war ruined the post-war world, which is the wasteland wherein the living dead modern people pull through in cultural and spiritual decadence.

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Sweeney Erect

by T.S. Eliot

‘Sweeney Erect’ presents the complex and ambiguous state of Sweeney, in turn questioning civilization’s state in the modern world.

'Sweeney Erect' carries a pervading presence of World War One throughout as the poem presents the contemporaneous state of the world, whose every aspect was impacted by the great war. When Eliot wrote 'Sweeney Erect' during the war, he told his brother in a letter that they were living a "nightmare." The poem presents such a nightmare where the violence of the war has penetrated the sexual and degraded even the human connections of the modern world.

And the trees about me,

Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks

Groan with continual surges; and behind me

Make all a desolation. Look, look, wenches!

The Hollow Men

by T.S. Eliot

‘The Hollow Men’ presents the hollow, degenerated, and disillusioned people dealing with their meaningless existence amidst the ruins of the postwar world.

The poem raises postwar concerns while alluding to the ruined postwar world inhabited by pathless and degenerated people disillusioned with prewar values due to the widespread destruction caused by the war. The poem presents the hollowness of the meaningless lives of such people or "hollow men."

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!


by T.S. Eliot

‘Preludes’ is a chilling exploration of life amidst urban decay, alienation, and absence of meaning in the dark modern world.

Though written during 1910-11, 'Preludes' was first published in 1917, towards the end of World War 1; the poem resonated with the social and cultural milieu caused by the devastation of the war, which eroded the pre-war civilizational ideals, values, and pillars like religion and democracy - accentuating the modern existential issues pertaining to loss of spirituality, disillusionment and alienation of people, and fragmentation of psyche.

The winter evening settles down

With smell of steaks in passageways.

Six o’clock.

The burnt-out ends of smoky days.

The Spires of Oxford

by Winifred Mary Letts

‘The Spires of Oxford’ by Winifred M. Letts is a memorial war poem that explores the loss of innumerable men from Oxford. The poet expresses her hope these men are in Heaven.

This poem alludes to the many losses that England experienced during WWI. Specifically, the speaker is interested in discussing the loss of men from Oxford.

I saw the spires of Oxford

As I was passing by,

The gray spires of Oxford

Against the pearl-gray sky.


by Frederick William Harvey

‘Ducks’ by F.W. Harvey is a charming and interesting poem about the movements and lives of ducks. It looks at their humorous and calming features.

This poem was written during WWI while the poet was a prisoner of war in Germany. Although the text doesn't suggest much about war, the world's "troubles," as the poet states, are an allusion to the broader issues outside the poem's text.

From troubles of the world

I turn to ducks,

Beautiful comical things

Sleeping or curled

Their heads beneath white wings

Explore more poems about World War One (WWI)


by Wilfred Owen

The best inspirations for poetry, or any art, really, as with the case of Owen’s ‘1914,’ come from anything that is real and important in the life of the writer.

War broke: and now the Winter of the world

With perishing great darkness closes in.

The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,

Is over all the width of Europe whirled,

A Terre

by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen wrote ‘A Terre’ about the aftermath of the war. In it, a soldier reminisces about his days before the war – the days when he had full functionality of his limbs, and could do whatever he wanted – to an unknown listener, most likely a young and influential boy.

Sit on the bed; I'm blind, and three parts shell.

Be careful; can't shake hands now; never shall.

Both arms have mutinied against me,—brutes.

My fingers fidget like ten idle brats.

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

by William Butler Yeats

After losing his dear friend in World War I, William Butler Yeats wrote this particular poem, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Robert Gregory, an Irish Airman, was accidentally shot down by an Italian Aviator, who happened to be a dear friend of Yeats.

I know that I shall meet my fate

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

And There Was a Great Calm

by Thomas Hardy

‘And There Was a Great Calm’ by Thomas Hardy describes the horrors of WWI, the end of the war, and the ‘Great Calm’ which came on November 11th, 1918.

There had been years of Passion—scorching, cold,

And much Despair, and Anger heaving high,

Care whitely watching, Sorrows manifold,

Among the young, among the weak and old,


by Siegfried Sassoon

‘Counter-Attack’ is perhaps Siegfried Sassoon’s longest poem that describes a failed counter-attack on the German line. From the very first stanza, a sense of hopelessness lurks in this poem.


by Siegfried Sassoon

‘Dreamers’ by Siegfried Sassoon speakers on the inner, dream-like lives of soldiers fighting in the trenches of World War I. 

First March

by Ivor Gurney

‘First March,’ written by one of the lesser known First World War poets, Ivor Bertie Gurney, is about a soldier’s emotional state while returning to his home.


by Wilfred Owen

Despite Wilfred Owen’s prodigious writing, only five poems were ever published in his lifetime – probably because of his strong anti-war sentiment, which would not have been in line with British policy at the time, particularly in their attempt to gather rather more and more people to sign up for the war.

Move him into the sun—

Gently its touch awoke him once,

At home, whispering of fields unsown.

Always it woke him, even in France,

Glory of Women

by Siegfried Sassoon

In ‘Glory of Women,’ Siegfried Sassoon attacks the role of women in wartime and makes them complicit in the deaths of the men they claim to “worship”.


by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Inspection’ was drafted at a military hospital Craiglockhart in August 1917, and completed in September, under the influence of wartime poet Siegfried Sassoon. In it, Owen writes about the loss and cheapness of life through war.

"You! What d'you mean by this?" I rapped.

"You dare come on parade like this?"

"Please, sir, it's -' ''Old yer mouth," the sergeant snapped.

"I takes 'is name, sir?" - "Please, and then dismiss."

Last Post

by Carol Ann Duffy

In ‘Last Post’, the poet winds back the clock so we reimagine fallen soldiers being brought back to life instead of dying in battle in the fields during WWI.

'In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.'


If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin

that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…

Le Christianisme

by Wilfred Owen

So the church Christ was hit and buried

Under its rubbish and its rubble.

In cellars, packed-up saints long serried,

Well out of hearing of our trouble.

Smile, Smile, Smile

by Wilfred Owen

Pictures of these broad smiles appear each week,

And people in whose voice real feeling rings

Say: How they smile! They're happy now, poor things.

The Garden

by Ezra Pound

‘The Garden’ by Ezra Pound describes the emotional conflict caused by changes in the upper and lower classes of England during the ending months of WWI. 

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