Wilfred Owen

Poet / Soldier

Born: 18 March 1893
Died: 4 November 1918
Birthplace: Plas Wilmot, England
Best known as: English poet of World War I

Name at birth: Wilfred Edward Salter Owen

Wilfred Owen is considered one of the great English poets of World War I, inspired by his experiences on the front lines in France to write about the morbid absurdity of war. Owen was working as a tutor in Europe when the war broke out in 1914. On a visit to England in 1915 he enlisted and was eventually sent into combat in France. In 1917 he was sent back to the United Kingdom with a case of neurasthenia ("shell shock"), and ended up meeting poets Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves at a hospital in Edinburgh. With Sassoon's encouragement, Owen began writing naturalistic poems about the horrors of war, while experimenting with poetic forms. In 1918 he returned to military service and in August was sent back to the front lines in France. He was killed by a German counter-attack on 4 November 1918, a mere five days before the signing of the armistice that ended the war. Most of his poems were published posthumously and, thanks in large part to Sassoon, Owen's reputation grew in the 1920s and '30s. His poems include "The Last Laugh" (which begins with the line "'Oh, Jesus Christ, I'm hit,' he said, and died") and "Dulce Et Decorum Est," in which he mocks "the old lie" that it's honorable to die for one's country.

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