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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

WILFRED OWEN'S PHOTOGRAPHS, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

“Wilfred Owen’s Photographs” is a poem by Edward James Hughes, commonly known as Ted Hughes, who was a prominent English poet and writer. The poem is a tribute to the First World War poet Wilfred Owen, who died during the war at the age of 25. In the poem, Hughes explores the photographs of Owen and tries to imagine the horrors of war that he witnessed. Hughes not only pays homage to Owen but also highlights the futility and brutality of war through his powerful and evocative imagery.

Explanation:

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each exploring different aspects of Owen's life and death.

Stanza 1:

The first stanza of the poem describes a photograph of Owen in his uniform, standing amidst the debris of war. Hughes vividly describes the scene, highlighting the "mortar-shattered trees" and "a few shells" lying around. He also mentions Owen's posture, with his "face and hands all darkened" by the war. Hughes uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the destruction and devastation caused by the war.

Stanza 2:

The second stanza of the poem describes another photograph of Owen, which shows him lying dead on a stretcher. Hughes describes the photograph as a "sacrament" and highlights the irony of the image - Owen appears peaceful and almost asleep, despite the violent death he suffered. Hughes uses powerful and emotive language to describe the image, highlighting the tragedy and senselessness of war.

Stanza 3:

In the third and final stanza of the poem, Hughes imagines the experiences that led to Owen's death. He describes Owen's journey from a "fresh recruit" to a seasoned soldier, fighting in the trenches and facing the horrors of war. Hughes uses powerful imagery to evoke the sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefield. He also questions the value of war and the sacrifice of young lives for political gain.

Essential Poetic Elements:

Imagery: The poem is filled with vivid and evocative imagery, which helps the reader visualize the scenes described by Hughes.

Tone: The tone of the poem is somber and mournful, reflecting the tragedy of war and the loss of young lives.

Irony: The poem uses irony to highlight the senselessness of war, particularly in the description of Owen's peaceful appearance in death.

Symbolism: The photographs of Owen serve as powerful symbols of the human cost of war, and the sacrifice of young lives for political gain.

Poem Snippet:

"He lies on a stretcher

Looking up at his men

Who stand with arms

And faces all white with frost

Conclusion:

“Wilfred Owen’s Photographs” is a poignant and powerful poem that pays tribute to the First World War poet Wilfred Owen while highlighting the futility and brutality of war. Through vivid imagery and emotive language, Hughes creates a powerful commentary on the human cost of conflict and the sacrifices made by young soldiers. The poem is a testament to both Owen's bravery and the lasting impact of his poetry.


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