Arms and the Boy
Author: Wilfred Owen
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 06/17/2009
Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and
keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.
Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.
For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no
claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.
Bio: Wilfred Owen was born in Oswestry, Shropshire and was educated at Birkenhead Institute and a technical college in Shrewsbury. Probably influenced by his deeply religious mother, he went on to work as a lay assistant to the vicar of Dunsden in 1913 and later that year left England to teach English in France.
In 1915, he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles and served at the Somme that winter. Suffering from shell shock, he was sent to Craiglochhart Hospital, Edinburgh where he met and was encouraged by Siegfried Sassoon. Most of his best poetry was written and polished during his convalescence there. He returned to the front, having spurned the offer of a home-based training position, and was killed one week before the end of the war at the age of twenty-five, after having been awarded the Military Cross the previous month.
His poetry, exemplified by Anthem for Doomed Youth, encapulates the futility and horror of war and his very name symbolises the sacrifice of innocence to its cause.