"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."
"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."
"Wilfred Owen's best-known writing deals with the life and death of soldiers; and among the cultural codes that mingle to create his style, the language of the army is obviously prominent. It supplies a repertoire of imagery, including human types; a body of texts (such as regulations, ritual phrases, slang); a set of speech genres such as combat anecdote, the giving of orders, the soldiers grumble; a stylistic propensity for functional, spare, and sometimes violent diction; an ideological field, where the issues include questions of loyalty, duty, and responsibility - for any speech-community has a system of authority of values."
"Separated by at least eight syllables or used in irregular metres half-rhyme gives Owen's later war-poetry a haunting uneasiness, a sense of frustration and melancholy perfectly in keeping with its mood; the pity whih is in the poetry is the more emphatically brought out by it."
Only five poems were published in his lifetime—three in the Nation and two that appeared anonymously in the Hydra, a journal he edited in 1917 when he was a patient at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. Shortly after his death, seven more of his poems appeared in the 1919 volume of Edith Sitwell's annual anthology, Wheels, a volume dedicated to his memory, and in 1919 and 1920 seven other poems appeared in periodicals.
When Owen returned to the Western Front, after more than a year away, he took part in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Joncourt (October 1918) for which he was awarded the Military Cross in recognition of his courage and leadership. He was killed on 4 November 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.
In 1915 Owen enlisted in the British Army. His first experiences of active service at Serre and St. Quentin in January-April 1917 led to shell-shock and his return to Britain. Whilst he was undergoing treatment at the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, he met one of his literary heroes, Siegfried Sassoon, who provided him with guidance, and encouragement to bring his war experiences into his poetry.
After failing to win a university scholarship in 1911, he became a lay assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden in Oxfordshire. Failing again to win a scholarship in 1913, Owen accepted a position teaching English at the Berlitz School in Bordeaux, France. There he was befriended by the Symbolist poet and pacifist Laurent Tailhade, whose encouragement affirmed Owen's determination to become a poet.
After he turned four, the family moved from the grandfather’s home to a modest house in Birkenhead, where Owen attended Birkenhead Institute from 1900 to 1907. The family then moved to another modest house, in Shrewsbury, where Owen attended Shrewsbury Technical School and graduated in 1911 at the age of 18.
Owen was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, the eldest son of a minor railroad official. A thoughtful, imaginative youth, he was greatly influenced by his Calvinist mother and developed an early interest in Romantic poets and poetry, especially in John Keats, whose influence can be seen in many of Owen's poems.