by Wilfred Owen

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Poems by Wilfred Owen

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by Wilfred Owen

With an Introduction by Siegfried Sassoon



In writing an Introduction such as this it is good to be brief.
The poems printed in this book need no preliminary commendations
from me or anyone else. The author has left us his own fragmentary
but impressive Foreword; this, and his Poems, can speak for him,
backed by the authority of his experience as an infantry soldier,
and sustained by nobility and originality of style. All that was strongest
in Wilfred Owen survives in his poems; any superficial impressions
of his personality, any records of his conversation, behaviour, or appearance,
would be irrelevant and unseemly. The curiosity which demands such morsels
would be incapable of appreciating the richness of his work.

The discussion of his experiments in assonance and dissonance
(of which `Strange Meeting' is the finest example) may be left
to the professional critics of verse, the majority of whom
will be more preoccupied with such technical details than with
the profound humanity of the self-revelation manifested in
such magnificent lines as those at the end of his `Apologia pro Poemate Meo',
and in that other poem which he named `Greater Love'.

The importance of his contribution to the literature of the War
cannot be decided by those who, like myself, both admired him as a poet
and valued him as a friend. His conclusions about War
are so entirely in accordance with my own that I cannot attempt
to judge his work with any critical detachment. I can only affirm
that he was a man of absolute integrity of mind. He never wrote his poems
(as so many war-poets did) to make the effect of a personal gesture.
He pitied others; he did not pity himself. In the last year of his life
he attained a clear vision of what he needed to say, and these poems
survive him as his true and splendid testament.

Wilfred Owen was born at Oswestry on 18th March 1893. He was educated
at the Birkenhead Institute, and matriculated at London University in 1910.
In 1913 he obtained a private tutorship near Bordeaux,
where he remained until 1915. During this period he became acquainted
with the eminent French poet, Laurent Tailhade, to whom he showed
his early verses, and from whom he received considerable encouragement.
In 1915, in spite of delicate health, he joined the Artists' Rifles O.T.C.,
was gazetted to the Manchester Regiment, and served with their 2nd Battalion
in France from December 1916 to June 1917, when he was invalided home.
Fourteen months later he returned to the Western Front and served
with the same Battalion, ultimately commanding a Company.