'A Terre' by Wilfred Owen

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(Being the philosophy of many Soldiers.)

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.

I tried to peg out soldierly -- no use!
One dies of war like any old disease.
This bandage feels like pennies on my eyes.
I have my medals? -- Discs to make eyes close.
My glorious ribbons? -- Ripped from my own back
In scarlet shreds. (That's for your poetry book.)

A short life and a merry one, my brick!
We used to say we'd hate to live dead old, --
Yet now . . . I'd willingly be puffy, bald,
And patriotic. Buffers catch from boys
At least the jokes hurled at them. I suppose
Little I'd ever teach a son, but hitting,
Shooting, war, hunting, all the arts of hurting.
Well, that's what I learnt, -- that, and making money.
Your fifty years ahead seem none too many?
Tell me how long I've got? God! For one year
To help myself to nothing more than air!
One Spring! Is one too good to spare, too long?
Spring wind would work its own way to my lung,
And grow me legs as quick as lilac-shoots.
My servant's lamed, but listen how he shouts!
When I'm lugged out, he'll still be good for that.
Here in this mummy-case, you know, I've thought
How well I might have swept his floors for ever,
I'd ask no night off when the bustle's over,
Enjoying so the dirt. Who's prejudiced
Against a grimed hand when his own's quite dust,
Less live than specks that in the sun-shafts turn,
Less warm than dust that mixes with arms' tan?
I'd love to be a sweep, now, black as Town,
Yes, or a muckman. Must I be his load?

O Life, Life, let me breathe, -- a dug-out rat!
Not worse than ours the existences rats lead --
Nosing along at night down some safe vat,
They find a shell-proof home before they rot.
Dead men may envy living mites in cheese,
Or good germs even. Microbes have their joys,
And subdivide, and never come to death,
Certainly flowers have the easiest time on earth.
"I shall be one with nature, herb, and stone."
Shelley would tell me. Shelley would be stunned;
The dullest Tommy hugs that fancy now.
"Pushing up daisies," is their creed, you know.
To grain, then, go my fat, to buds my sap,
For all the usefulness there is in soap.
D'you think the Boche will ever stew man-soup?
Some day, no doubt, if . . .
Friend, be very sure
I shall be better off with plants that share
More peaceably the meadow and the shower.
Soft rains will touch me, -- as they could touch once,
And nothing but the sun shall make me ware.
Your guns may crash around me. I'll not hear;
Or, if I wince, I shall not know I wince.
Don't take my soul's poor comfort for your jest.
Soldiers may grow a soul when turned to fronds,
But here the thing's best left at home with friends.

My soul's a little grief, grappling your chest,
To climb your throat on sobs; easily chased
On other sighs and wiped by fresher winds.

Carry my crying spirit till it's weaned
To do without what blood remained these wounds.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Terre by Wilfred Owen

If there is one poem that encapsulates the horror and tragedy of World War I, it is A Terre by Wilfred Owen. This powerful and moving work speaks to the physical and emotional toll of war on those who fight it, and it does so with a language that is both beautiful and brutal.

The Language of Pain

Owen was a master of language, and in A Terre he uses his poetic talents to paint a vivid and wrenching picture of a soldier who has lost his legs in battle. The poem is full of vivid and visceral imagery, from the "crimson" blood that spills from the speaker's wounds to the "foul-smelling breath" of the gas that poisons him.

What makes Owen's language so powerful is that it is not simply descriptive. Rather, it conveys the physical and emotional pain of the soldier himself. When he speaks of the "searing agony" that runs through his "stump-ends," we can feel that pain in our own bodies. When he speaks of the "cold, stiffening" of his "thighs," we can feel the chill of death itself.

A Portrait of Isolation

But A Terre is not simply a poem about physical pain; it is also a poem about emotional isolation. The soldier is trapped in his own body, unable to move or communicate with the world around him. He is cut off from his fellow soldiers, who can no longer understand him, and from his loved ones back home, who can only imagine his suffering from afar.

Owen captures this sense of isolation and despair in his language. The soldier describes himself as a "half-man," a "thing," a "monster." He longs for the "light of human eyes" and the "sound of human voice," but they are denied to him. He is a man without a place in the world, a reminder of the senseless violence and destruction of war.

A Critique of War

Ultimately, A Terre is a critique of war itself. Owen was a soldier, and he knew firsthand the horrors of combat. He saw the senseless death and destruction that war brought, and he saw how it tore apart the lives of those who fought it. In this poem, he shows us the human cost of war, the toll it takes on those who fight it and those who are left behind.

But Owen does not simply condemn war; he also calls on us to remember those who suffer because of it. He asks us to see the soldier as a human being, not as a monster or a thing. He asks us to hear his voice, to see his pain, and to remember that he was once like us.


A Terre is a powerful and haunting poem that captures the horror and tragedy of war. Its language is both beautiful and brutal, conveying the physical and emotional pain of the soldier in vivid detail. But it is also a poem about isolation and despair, a reminder of the human cost of war. Through his writing, Owen asks us to remember the soldiers who suffer because of war, and to work towards a world where such suffering is no longer necessary.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

A Terre: A Poem of Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen is one of the most celebrated poets of the First World War. His poems are known for their vivid imagery, powerful emotions, and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war. Among his most famous works is the poem "A Terre," which is a haunting depiction of a soldier who has been paralyzed from the waist down. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, imagery, and language.

The poem "A Terre" was written in 1917, during Owen's time as a patient at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. The poem is written in the form of a dramatic monologue, with the soldier speaking directly to the reader. The title of the poem, "A Terre," is a French phrase that means "on the ground." This phrase is used to describe soldiers who have been wounded and are unable to fight. In the poem, the soldier is paralyzed from the waist down and is confined to a wheelchair.

The poem begins with the soldier describing his condition. He says that he is "crippled, blind, and dumb," and that he is "lying on the ground." The soldier's use of the word "crippled" is significant because it highlights the physical and emotional damage that war can inflict on a person. The soldier's blindness and inability to speak also symbolize the loss of his identity and agency. He is no longer a soldier, but a helpless victim of war.

The soldier then goes on to describe his surroundings. He says that he is "in a queer old-fashioned room," which is filled with "queer old-fashioned things." The use of the word "queer" here is interesting because it suggests that the soldier is out of place in this room. He is a modern soldier, trapped in an old-fashioned world. The room is also described as "dim," which creates a sense of claustrophobia and confinement.

The soldier then begins to reflect on his life before the war. He says that he was once a "gay young spark" who was "fond of girls and wine." The use of the word "gay" here is significant because it highlights the soldier's innocence and naivety before the war. He was a young man who enjoyed life and had hopes and dreams for the future. However, the war has robbed him of his youth and vitality.

The soldier then reflects on his experiences in the war. He says that he has "fought in hell" and has seen "things that cannot be told." The use of the word "hell" here is significant because it suggests that the soldier has been through a traumatic and horrific experience. The soldier's inability to describe what he has seen also highlights the unspeakable nature of war. The soldier has witnessed things that are beyond words, and this has left him traumatized and unable to communicate.

The soldier then reflects on his current condition. He says that he is "paralyzed" and that he is "a thing half-dead." The use of the word "thing" here is significant because it highlights the soldier's loss of humanity. He is no longer a person, but an object. The soldier's use of the phrase "half-dead" also suggests that he is in a state of limbo. He is neither alive nor dead, but trapped in a state of perpetual suffering.

The soldier then reflects on his future. He says that he is "waiting for the dark" and that he is "fearful of the dawn." The use of the word "dark" here is significant because it suggests that the soldier is waiting for death. He is afraid of the dawn because it represents a new day and a new beginning. The soldier has no hope for the future and is resigned to his fate.

The poem ends with the soldier asking the reader to "remember" him. The use of the word "remember" here is significant because it suggests that the soldier is afraid of being forgotten. He wants to be remembered as a person, not as a victim of war. The soldier's plea for remembrance is a powerful reminder of the human cost of war.

In conclusion, "A Terre" is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the physical and emotional damage that war can inflict on a person. The soldier's paralysis and loss of identity symbolize the loss of humanity that war can cause. The soldier's reflections on his past, present, and future highlight the unspeakable nature of war and the toll it takes on those who experience it. The soldier's plea for remembrance is a powerful reminder of the human cost of war and the importance of honoring those who have sacrificed so much.

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