A ‘War Poet’ or A ‘Poet At War’: Wilfred Owen and the Pity of War

George Ewane Ngide


This article sets out to examine Wilfred Owen’s war poems which showcase his vigorous philosophy on and against war. We contend that instead of considered only as “a war poet”, Owen was more “a poet at war”, better still, a poet against war. The terms are used in this paper to mean on the one hand that Owen was less a poet who took part in war, and more a poet who wars against war. Put differently, Owen does not just describe what he himself calls “The pity of war” with the gruesome and excruciating experiences of soldiers in combat, but he also uses firsthand experience on the battlefield (having been a soldier himself)  to call for an end to war. In the preface to his poems he writes that “The poetry is in the pity”. His descriptions of war experiences are so profound that they discourage any possibility of  war, thus leaving the human race with one option namely, negotiation and peaceful resolution of conflicts by those he calls “better men” who in the future will profoundly be involved in what he calls “greater wars”.



Owen, war, pity, conflicts, negotiation, philosophy

Full Text:



Araujo, A.D. (2014). Jessie Pope, Wilfred Owen, and the politics of pro patria mori in World War I poetry. Media, War & Conflict December, 7(3), 326-341.

Bartel, R. (1972), Teaching Wilfred Owen's War Poems and the Bible. The English Journal, 61(1), pp. 36-42.

Brophy, James D (1971). The War Poetry of Wilfred Owen and Osbert Sitwell: An Instructive Contrast. Modern Language Studies, 1(2), 22-29.

Clark, J. (2014). The Re-animator - Mental Cases - Wilfred Owen - Poem - Animation - Ww1 (online) Available: http://fandalism.com/poetryreincarnations/dhlK

Fenton, J. (2007). Not with a Bang », Guardian, 8 September.

Ferguson, N. (1999). The Pity of War, New York: Basic Books.

Gose, E.B. (1961). Digging in: An Interpretation of Wilfred Owen's "Strange Meeting". College English, 22(6), pp. 417-419.

Hibberd, D. (1982). Wilfred Owen's letters: Additions, Amendments and Notes. The Library, 4(3), pp 273-287.

Hibberd, D. (1979). Wilfred Owen and the Georgians. The Review of English Studies, New Series, 30(117), pp. 28-40.

Hipp, D. (2002). By Degrees Regain[ing] Cool Peaceful Air in Wonder". Wilfred Owen's War, Poetry as Psychological Therapy, 35(1), pp. 25-49.

Hoffpauir, R. (1985). An Assessment of Wilfred Owen”. English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 28(1), pp. 41-55.

Hughes, T. (1964). The Crime of Fools Exposed”. Review of The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen. New York Times Book Review 12 April: p. 4

Kerr, D. (1992). Brothers in Arms: Family Language in Wilfred Owen”. The Review of English Studies, New Series, 43 (172), pp. 518-534.

--------------------- (1992). The Disciplines of the Wars: Army Training and the Language of Wilfred Owen. The Modern Language Review, Vol. 87 (2), pp. 286-299.

Lane, A. E. (1972). An Adequate Response: The War Poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Martin, M. (2007). Therapeutic Measures: The Hydra and Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart War Hospital. Modernism/modernity, 14(1), pp. 35-54.

Masson, D. I. (1955). Wilfred Owen's Free Phonetic Patterns: Their Style and Function. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 13(3), pp. 360-369.

Najarian, J. (2001). Greater Love: Wilfred Owen, Keats, and a Tradition of Desire. Twentieth Century Literature, 47 (1), pp. 20-38.

Norgate, P. (1989). Wilfred Owen and the Soldier Poets. The Review of English Studies, New Series,40(160), pp. 516-530.

Pittock, M. (1998). Wilfred Owen, Tailhade, Tolstoy, and Pacifism. The Review of English Studies, New Series, 49 (19). pp. 154-166.

Rivers, B. (2009). A Drawing-Down of Blinds’: Wilfred Owen's Punning Conclusion to ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth. Notes and Queries, 56(3), 409-411.

Slawek, T. (1985). Dark Pits of War: Wilfred Owen's Poetry and the Hermeneutics of War. Boundary 2, 14(1/2), pp. 309-331.

Stallworthy, J. (1974). Owen and Sassoon - the Craiglockhart episode. New Review, 1(4), pp.5-17.

Stephens, J. and Waterhouse, R. (1987). Authorial Revision and Constraints on the Role of the Reader: Some Examples from Wilfred Owen. Poetics Today, 8(1), pp.65-83.

Strachan, H. (2006), Big Wars and Small Wars: The British Army and the Lessons of War in the 20th Century. London, New York: Routledge.

Welland, D. (1950) Half-Rhyme in Wilfred Owen: Its Derivation and Use, The Review of English Studies, New Series, 3, pp. 226-241.

White, G. M., and Rosen, J. (1972), A Moment’s Monument: The Development of the Sonnet. New York: Simon Schuster Trade.

Wohl, R. (1979). The Generation of 1914. Boston: Harvard University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.5n.1p.170


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.