Wilfred Owen was born at Plas Wilmot Oswestry on 18th of March in 1893. He is considered by many to have been the most promising of all the young poets of his time. Even as a young boy. Wilfred Owen was always thoughtful and imaginative. He studied at Birkenhead Institution, Liverpool in his early student life. Before passing the Matriculation Examination of London University, he spent two years in France. He began to write poetry quite early life, and his poems show the promise of his future maturity.
In 1912 he went to France for the second time to recover his health. He stayed there for about two years and returned home in 1915. At that time the First World War outbreak. Wilfred Owen was recruited for the army and sent to the front in France in January 1917, as an Infantry Officer. At that front, he achieved the direct experience of the horrors of trench warfare. He was seriously wounded and was admitted to the Military Hospital. After his discharge from the hospital, he visited London. During this time he became intimately acquainted with Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden Osbert Sitwell – some of the Literary figures of the younger generation. His poems were started publishing in different magazines and he was gradually being recognized as one of the foremost war poets of his time.
Again, Wilfred Owen went back to the battlefield in France by the middle of 1918. In this year he won the Military Cross. But he was killed only a week before the Armistice on November 4, 1918. The life of a genius poet came to an end only at the age of twenty-three.
There are two editions of his poems, one with an introduction by Siegfried Sassoon, published in 1920, and the other with a memoir by Edmund Blunden, published in 1931.
Wilfred Owen is a soldier-poet like Rupert Brooke. But he has no romantic enthusiasm for warlike Rupert Brooke. Rupert Brooke sings of the glory of warfare, but Wilfred Owen breathes out the opposite strain. He sings of disillusion – the pathos and tragedy of war. The emotions experienced by him inactive warfare are finely expressed in his poems. Wilfred Owen has no illusion about the glory and greatness of war. He is noted for his metrical experiments. Not satisfied with the traditional and stereotyped language of poetry, he tries to invent a new style of expression to convey the horrors of war. He made a popular style what has come to be known as para-rhyme or half-rhyme. He is one of the principal ancestors of the young poets of that generation, particularly of the school represented by Eliot, Auden, Spender, etc.
“The Mss of his poems, which were in the main a passionate protest against the horrors of the war, and which showed the influence of Keats on him were presented to the British Museum in 1934,”
The poetry that springs from the direct experience at the war front is known as war-poetry. The war-poets are a group apart from a pathetic one. Their poems were mainly lyrical. Some of them like Rupert Brooke sang the joy of war and the sacrifices made for one’s fatherland. They drew their inspiration and Sassoon sang not of the joy of war, but the horror and pity of war. To them, the war was nothing but an “ugly dirty business”. Wilfred Owen is one of them. He was endowed with a truly poetic imagination and had a keen sensitive mind. An angry pity is the dominant tone of the bulk of his poems. He gives a view of war which is exactly the opposite of Brooke’s. Wilfred Owen neither glorifies the death of the soldier at the war front nor does he express any enthusiasm for war.
The main themes of his poems were suffering, bitterness, impassioned realism and a vengeful irony. To him, the war is a colossal wastage of human life and opportunity. There is nothing great or sublime in war. Only men utterly callous and insensible to nobler feelings and sentiments can glorify war and idealize it. This spirit of moral rebellion is the chief note of what is known as the war poetry of Owen, an unforgettable spiritual drama remains alive at the heart of his war-poems.
Of all the war poets, Owen gives the best expression to the inspired pity and anger felt at the sight of the ghastly dance of death in civilized warfare. None of the war poets rivals Owen in the strong and genuine feeling of disgust and hatred for war. He always sings of disillusion of war and horror. Wilfred Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal.