“Military glory – that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood – that serpent`s eye, that charms to destroy………”
~~ Abraham Lincoln ~~
Wilfred Owen looked deep into the serpent`s eye, and saw the angel of death. It beckoned young men, hungry for glory, blood stirred red hot by patriotic duty to honour their country on the field of battle; patriotism, that great deceiver led a nation`s youth into the butcher`s yard of the western front.
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
~~ George Orwell ~~
Wilfred Owen was born in 1893, and served in the British Army during World War One, and began the war optimistically, until two traumatic events changed his mindset radically. First: he was blown into the air by a mortar shell and landed on the dismembered remains of a fellow officer. Second: he was trapped in an old German dugout for several days, after which he was diagnosed with shell shock and sent for recuperation to Edinburgh, where he met Siegfried Sassoon, who had a major influence on the rest of his short life.
Owen`s poetry became darker, as he had time to ponder on the horrors he had seen: of men herded into battle like cattle, to be cut down in their thousands in a man made abattoir, to be shot as deserters if they moved a step back. He portrayed the carnage, and the sub-human conditions which men had to suffer, as they were poured into the meat grinder by generals and politicians sitting safely in their offices hundreds of miles behind the front.
Wilfred Owen didn`t live to see the end of war……Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades………..he survived them all; then, in 1918, while crossing a canal he was shot in the head and died. The generals later generously awarded him the Military Cross – but they couldn`t give him back that most precious gift……….His life. The vanity of war had claimed another victim.
Along with all the other patriotic young bloods, at the beginning of war, he would have probably believed it sweet and decorous to die for his country; but as the bullet bored through his brain on that fateful day, what would have been his mindset then? The sweet taste of nationalistic pride had turned sour by what he, and others had endured………………Not so sweet then I think.