Stagecraft & Poetry

From “Bullets and Mud: a stage poem inspired by Wilfred Owen”:


There’s Death waiting to shave me

                  With his scythe


I told my brother

I know I shall be killed

But this is the only place

That I can make my protest from


I came to help these boys

By leading them as well

As an officer can

By watching their sufferings

That I may speak as well

As a pleader can


After all the shells we’ve been through

And the gas

These bullets are a gentle rain

From heaven


Or, they are arrowheads of political error

And insincerity on which young men

Are being sacrificed



Death’s not my enemy

Though I can’t stand

The green thick odour of his breath

My enemies are those who talk

Of “attrition” and “sustaining damage”

Those whose imaginations have shrunk

To the size of a flag, those who still believe

A corpse missing half a face

Has any use of nationality


I have been urged by an earnest viola

To lay my chest to the ground

And submit to the pounding shells

The newest rhythm in the earth



I was reborn through Keats

And reared again by sweet Sassoon

But why poetry, I could not say

Except that it gives me a strange solitude

When I resort to it and stranger

Friends when I resort to them

And even if I don’t know why poetry

Or what I really want I do know

What I don’t want:

Preserve me from old women

Without wit or wisdom

Preserve me from young women

With gush and no beauty

Preserve me from women

Of beauty and no charm; but take

No measures against women of charm

And no beauty, for they are the sugar

Of the earth

Preserve me from men in waistcoats

Shirt cuffs and braces of a Sunday afternoon

Preserve me from the man who sits

In stocking feet of an evening

And scratches his big toe with his heel

Preserve me from the youth

Who carries a pencil in his right ear;

But preserve the cigarette in the ear of a Tommy

For it is his last

Preserve me from people who eat eggs

When I don’t want any

Preserve me from all ships

In glass bottles, plush chairs

Group photographs, flowers under glass

Shades and shells-pictures-frames


And especially preserve me

From armchair generals and politicians

Who prolong suffering for their own ends




Read the whole thing here


Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, with notes


Wilfred Owen, 1893 – 1918

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