The influence of his mother is never far away in Owen’s work. Likewise, his interest in religion is often just below the surface. Anthem for Doomed Youth describes a funeral held on the battlefield rather than in a church, opening with the line: “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?/ — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.” Another poem, At a Calvary near the Ancre, a tributary of the Somme, links the sacrifice on the battlefield with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and other New Testament references:
The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.
Wilfred was brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury, the family moving around with Thomas’s dispiriting work as a clerk and later a station master with a railway company. He was educated at Birkenhead Institute and Shrewsbury Technical School. As a boy he enjoyed swimming in mountain pools, reading Oscar Wilde and wearing a favourite green suit. Before joining the army he had floppy hair.
Already he was writing poetry, taking inspiration from the work of John Keats, whose house at Teignmouth he visited in 1911 while on holiday with an aunt and uncle in nearby Torquay. He marked the occasion with a sonnet. According to Stallworthy, “Owen warmed to the sensuality and musicality of the older poet, and Keats’s physicality (heightened by his study of anatomy and experience of illness) accorded with his apprentice’s own precocious awareness of the human body.”
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A belated obit for Wilfred Owen https://t.co/15pKgCJaXN
— Nigel Farndale (@nigelfarndale) November 10, 2018