Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen Poems

Wilfred Owen is considered to be the greatest of the First World War poets and has been immortalized in several books and movies. His poems exposed the horrors of modern warfare and still influence public perception of conflict to this day. Read more about Wilfred Owen.

Dulce et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen immortalized mustard gas in his indictment against warfare, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est.’ Written in 1917 while at Craiglockart, and published posthumously in 1920, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ details what is, perhaps, the most memorable written account of a mustard gas attack.

In what is perhaps the most iconic anti-war poem ever written, Wilfred Owen captures the horrors of modern warfare, specifically the use of mustard gas, in ways that his readership would never have encountered before. The title's ironic application lends additional weight to Owen's cynical and embittered poem, which dismantles any lingering chance that people still viewed the war as something morally just or to be proud of.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

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. 

Wilfred Owen is renowned for his war poetry, particularly as it relates to World War I. His works often take a critical stance on the futility and horror of war, and 'The Parable of the Old Man and the Young' is no exception. Owen is especially skilled at taking familiar concepts and narratives and infusing them with contemporary meaning, as he does by adapting the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac to critique the senseless loss of life in war.

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

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

As the First World War raged on to its completion, Wilfred Owen, the poem, spent the final days of the war incarcerated in Craiglockhart, suffering from an acute case of shellshock and trying to write through the trauma using poetry.

The poem demonstrates Owen's career long preoccupation with the horrors of warfare, but it also lingers on the effects the war had on those who didn't directly participate in it, such as the families of the soldiers. The poem was edited by Owen's friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon, whose influence on the poem and Owen's wider career was evident.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.


by Wilfred Owen

A harrowing poem that was written by a WW1 veteran, Wilfred Owen describing the haunting loneliness of life as an injured post-war soldier.

Among Wilfred Owen's most famous poems, 'Disabled' focuses on the imagined life of a soldier returning home from a conflict, a fate suffered by many of Owen's compatriots. The poem captures Owen's cynical view of warfare and national pride and was at least in part influenced by his own period of recovery in Britain during the war after he suffered shell shock while fighting in France.

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,

And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,

Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park

Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,


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.

Arms and the Boy

by Wilfred Owen

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade

How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;

Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;

And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.


by Wilfred Owen

‘Exposure’ offers an in-depth view of life in the frosted winter of Northern France, where soldiers on duty would be left exposed to the elements.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire, 

Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles. 

Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles, 

Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war. 


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,

Explore more poems from Wilfred Owen


by Wilfred Owen

Happy the soldier home, with not a notion

How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,

And many sighs are drained.

Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:


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."

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.


by Wilfred Owen

Read Wilfred Owen’s poem on war S.I.W. (Self Inflicted Wound) with an analysis, summary, and historical background.

Patting goodbye, doubtless they told the lad

He’d always show the Hun a brave man’s face;

Father would sooner him dead than in disgrace,—

Was proud to see him going, aye, and glad.

Shadwell Stair

by Wilfred Owen

‘Shadwell Stair’ by Wilfred Owen describes a dockside in London and the emotional turmoil of the ghost that frequents it.  

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.

       Along the wharves by the water-house,

       And through the cavernous slaughter-house,

I am the shadow that walks there.

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.

Spring Offensive

by Wilfred Owen

Halted against the shade of a last hill,

They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease

And, finding comfortable chests and knees

Carelessly slept. But many there stood still

Strange Meeting

by Wilfred Owen

“I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.

I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.

The Last Laugh

by Wilfred Owen

In ‘The Last Laugh,’ Wilfred Owen explores the sudden death of three soldiers, who, when dying, invoked their loved ones or religion in a bid to feel closer.

‘O Jesus Christ! I’m hit,’ he said; and died.

Whether he vainly cursed or prayed indeed,

                 The Bullets chirped—In vain, vain, vain!

                 Machine-guns chuckled—Tut-tut! Tut-tut!

The Next War

by Wilfred Owen

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death,-

Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland,-

Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.

We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath,-

The Send-Off

by Wilfred Owen

‘The Send-Off’ is an anti-war poem and is atypically dark, which was a trademark of Wilfred Owen’s poetry.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.

They were not ours:

We never heard to which front these were sent. 

The Show

by Wilfred Owen

My soul looked down from a vague height with Death,

As unremembering how I rose or why,

And saw a sad land, weak with sweats of dearth,

Gray, cratered like the moon with hollow woe,

Wild With All Regrets

by Wilfred Owen

‘Wild With All Regrets’ by Wilfred Owen takes place in the last few minutes of a dying soldier as his body shuts down, and he grows immobile.

My arms have mutinied against me—brutes!

My fingers fidget like ten idle brats,

My back’s been stiff for hours, damned hours.

Death never gives his squad a Stand-at-ease.

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