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Not About Heroes


Katie Elizabeth Stewart
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I have read some First World War fiction over the last year (apologies to purists who are suspicious of fiction - I understand your point of view even if I do not wholly agree with it), yet this is not a title I have encountered before. I recognise the quotation in the title - it is from Owen's prologue: 'This book is not about heroes...' I gather the play is concerned with the relationship between Owen and Sassoon? It's just, it's a set text for the synoptic unit of the English Literature A-level this year! (called 'Reading for Meaning) So... I was wondering if anybody could offer me either an opinion, overview or objective criticism and possibly tell me a thing or two about the context - who wrote it? why? what was there personal association with the Great War? There must be someone out there who has read it and is willing to help, if I know anything about this Forum! :)

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Surely somebody can think of something to say :( ?!

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are you aware of the discussion group on First World War literature that you can access from the Oxford University English Faculty pages?

Link at the bottom of this page. There are other links within this page that you might find worthwhile to explore.

Try Oxford's First World War Poetry Digital Archive for interest, too.

No, I had no idea! Have you any idea what a revelation that is, Gwyn??!! I will have a look pronto, and sincerely hope my posts will not be added to the 'naive' section! And by the way, sorry for my impatience...

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Oh dear. No, I don't think I will quite fall into that category. I hope these are not Oxford students?!

Yes, Rosenberg's Christmas card design is lovely, just like everything else about the man! I read a pre-war poem of his that I thought just beautiful - it had an elusive, flickering on and off sort of quality. It's called 'The World Rumbles by me', and I found it in an anthology of his poetry that I own.

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  • 1 month later...

Its proper title is 'Not About Heroes' - the friendship of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen', and its author is Stephen Macdonald (I believe at some point he played Sassoon in his own play). Not About Heroes was first produced by the Dundee Theatre Company at the Edinburgh Fesitval in August 1982.

Having now read the play in its not very lengthy two Act long entirity, I thought I would resume this discussion. What I have to say is, I thought it was beautiful, and there is no other word for it. It is very simple - only two characters - these being Owen and Sassoon themselves. Both are on stage for the duration, and this is done very adroitly, given that often, the one is in France whilst the other is stuck in Craiglockhart. The stage directions are extremely effective, usually with Owen, when he is serving at the Front, skulking in the shadows at the back, and Sassoon, in the foreground seated in an armchair with light coming up onto his face. There is one particular scene, towards the end, where Owen is dodging shells, Sassoon is sitting still with his head in his hands, and the two argue using exclusively their own verse. Reading it made me break out into violent shudders, so much so that I make no apology for reproducing the particular section of it here in full:

"(An explosion. SASSOON looks at a sheet of OWEN's paper but the words are for himself.)

SASSOON.

"I would have poured my spirit without stint

But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.

Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were..."

(OWEN rises and steps towards him, directly addressing him. SASSOON turns, appalled, to see him, and hears as an accusation:)

OWEN.

..."I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.

I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.

Let us sleep, now..."

(OWEN lies down, knees drawn up, an arm across his face, keeping out the light. SASSOON's fear sounds harsh.)

SASSOON.

"Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,

And one arm bent across your sullen, cold,

Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you.

(OWEN stirs in his sleep. SASSOON, with relief, picks up the red blanket and moves to the dug-out space.)

Drowsy, you mumble and sigh and turn your head...

You are too young to fall asleep for ever;

And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.

(SASSOON, with great care, places the red blanket over him. Kneeling above him, he watches him sleeping.)

Magnificent. And not least because the voices are those of the poets themselves.

I will not give everything away, but the end of it made my lip shake uncontrollably.

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Hi Katie. I see you have found another work which has affected you deeply. I am not familiar with this one but am gratified that it was performed by a theatre company from my home town. My education until now has not fitted me with the means to make a valid criticism of literature or the arts. I generally have looked at as much as I could and read as widely as I could. Some I liked and some I didn't. A fairly naive approach which I was aware of but made do with. Next year, I am embarking on an OU course on arts and humanities to see if I can formalise my knowledge and provide a framework for a deeper analysis than , " I know what I like". A year from now, I hope to be able to throw structuralism into the conversation and parry modernism with post-modernism. I suspect it all boils down to, I know what I like, in the end, but with a veneer of scholasticism. Back on topic. If the production served to introduce or remind playgoers of Sassoon and Owen then it will have succeeded in some measure. Sassoon himself was not satisfied to be thought of as a ' war poet'. He thought his later work was better. We can only wonder what Owen might have done. He was showing signs of promise. I personally think we lost a greater talent in Isaac Rosenberg. Perhaps by this time next year, I will be able to give you a reasoned argument to support that statement.

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I haven't been on the forum for a bit, so was not aware that anybody had yet responded to my general outpouring :-) Well, all I can say really, Tom, is you are quite right about the study of English Literature in general! There are only opinions, and subjective ones at that...but with academic study, hopefully reasoned ones! Hmmm... what is English Literature? Well, here is a question that might well be posed to me during my interview on Tuesday, so maybe if I try and get my teeth into it now it will serve as some means of practicing...

We cannot possibly know how any poet intended us to view them, or to interpret what they had to say. All I know is that I believe everybody who has written, be it poetry, prose or a play script, has recorded something for posterity, and in that respect, they are probably trying to convey something pretty important, or at least something that they judged important at the time. In Owen and Sassoon's case, the messages are clearly defined in the poets' own manifestos: in Owen's case 'the poetry is in the pity.' For Sassoon, the overall objective was probably something in the vain of 'destroying the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home view the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and have not sufficient imagination to realise.' Your example, Rosenburg, is probably more of a grey area. He had no clear proclamation of his objectives in writing poetry, which to me suggests the poetry was more intended to be read and appreciated for its own sake. (In other words, he was a soldier and a poet, not a soldier poet, as some have described Owen and Sassoon). I suppose in many ways he also remained loyal to the Georgian movement, and was a significant part of it. I personally hve a far stronger appreciation of the poetry of Owen and Sassoon, purely because I thought their tones so diverse and distinctive from the bulk of literature that was being produced at the time. I also think their dilineations of the Great War are accurate reflections of all they had to endure psychologically as soldiers, in other words, it has the feel of theraputic poetry far more, perhaps, than Rosenburg's does. They wrote their poetry for selfish reasons, because they needed to express themselves, and because the artistic parts of them were one entity with the bodies that were fighting and suffering, and that is something for which I feel an enormous amount of sympathy.

As readers, what is our duty when reading the poetry, and how can we best formulate our own conclusion about what the poet has to say to us and whether we find the manner in which they say it to us pleasing or not? There can never be an answer. All I can say is, to do the writers justice, we should pay the most meticulous attention to every feature of the language as is possible (something my English teachers are very fond of calling 'close reading') before we dismiss it as either 'good' literature or 'bad' literature: neither are these the only categories. There will always be texts that we feel indifferent towards, and in many ways, these are even worse than the ones that outrage us, or the ones for which reading them resembled a slow and painful one-by-one removal of teeth. If the text supports your view, if you can draw from the words the writer has chosen to use, and the structural features they have chosen to use, some sense of what the writer was striving to achieve, and some sense of how they have achieved this, and the overall effect this has upon you and why, then the conclusion will be one that has not been reached upon a whim, and one that has been given careful consideration. Anybody can do it, although I have to say Tom I envy you your arts and humanities course :-)

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Tom, one quality that I think such a course develops is the capacity to trust one's intuition and a 'vocabulary' with which to express it. I hope I don't sound patronising in saying that I've always considered you perspicacious and insightful, with considerable breadth. Not that I'm implying that I'm in a position to judge; just writing as one who observes.

Katie, beware the absolute statement. You say that, "We cannot possibly know how any poet intended us to view them, or to interpret what they had to say." We can sometimes deduce a writer's intentions from evidence in their diaries, letters, notes, annotated drafts, revisions, communications with editors and sponsors etc, and the records of those who knew them well (such as partners who shared their lives intimately or muses who acted as sounding boards). You need to leave yourself with a fall-back position in case anyone is in a position to refute your argument.

From where I'm sitting now, I can see several volumes of Dylan Thomas' poetry, a very thick volume of his Collected Letters, the autobiography of Caitlin, his wife and a biography by one of his friends, too. They all illuminate his intentions and thinking, especially his own letters. On a Great War theme, Edward Thomas's motivation is sometimes referenced by his wife, Helen Thomas, in 'As It Was' and 'World Without End' written as therapy some years after his death. (You should read them; they'll have you in tears.) T S Eliot wrote extensively about poetry and criticism, with reference to his own work; there's a useful little collection by Frank Kermode which you could dip into. Dorothy's Journals shed light on William. C S Lewis's debates with fellow academics show his own thought processes (not always very attractively). Coleridge kept detailed Notebooks. I could go on. Of course, a writer's intentions to illuminate may themselves be illuminating; we have sometimes to consider what is not said, or deliberately omitted, too. Writers aren't above image-manipulation.

Gwyn

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But again, Gwyn, Dorothy's diaries only shed light on how she perceived William, and who knows, perhaps Edward Thomas exposed an entire aspect of his personality to Eleanor Farjeon that Helen Thomas simply never had access to. What a person leaves to posterity is only ever determined by how much of themselves they reveal to others, and indeed, how others interpret their actions. Of course, I do not take this view as gospel, yet it is what I have grown up to believe, and I remain convinced that it is based upon substantial reasoning, and upon my personal experiences. Naturally, these are more limited than your own, but I think personal perceptions account for so much more than a conclusive 'yes' or 'no'. Facts are less sound and less solid than we are often aware, and so far, my education has taught me that it is my job as much as the next person's to challenge that where I see an issue.

Words and their usage will always convey entirely different meanings from one person to the next. For example, look at Hamlet. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue over whether, after seeing the ghost of his father, the Prince of Denmark consciously took the decision to put on his 'antic disposition' or whether, in actual fact, the confrontation with Ophelia that ensued was, on the part of Hamlet, a genuine farewell to the soundness of his mind brought about by the murder of his father and the apparent treachery of his mother. Another example is this poem I wrote an essay on for submission to my chosen university: On the Idle Hill, by A.E Housman.

On the idle hill of summer,

Sleepy with the flow of streams,

Far I hear the steady drummer

Drumming like a noise in dreams.

Far and near and low and louder

On the roads of earth go by,

Dear to friends and food for powder,

Soldiers marching, all to die.

East and west on fields forgotten

Bleach the bones of comrades slain,

Lovely lads and dead and rotten;

None that go return again.

Far the calling bugles hollo,

High the screaming fife replies,

Gay the files of scarlet follow:

Woman bore me, I will rise.

I was asked whether this poem presented the 'splendour' of war or the madness. I think that perhaps there are occasions when Housman does appear to be depicting some of the splendour and ceremony of war: for instance, the tradition of marching bands. Three times in the poem various instruments are mentioned, one a ‘high screaming fife’, the others a ‘steady drummer’ and ‘bugles hollo.’ What is more, perhaps Housman’s archaic spelling of ‘hollow’ implies he is drawing on tradition that he can relate to the noise of the bugles being somehow ancient. This is further enhanced by the culmination of the poem, where the soldier seemingly departs to go into action: ‘Women bore me, I will rise.’ There is something primitive and ancient about this, the continuity of the cycle that is eternal: a boy being born, and fulfilling the duty that is in his birth.

I cannot, however, reconcile the idea of ‘splendour’ with the image of the lone soldier ‘sleepy’ ‘on the idle hill of summer’ prior to fighting to defend his birth. Certainly, there is a sense of the fitting and the fulfilment of duty in the soldier’s final resolve to ‘rise’ because ‘woman bore’ him. Yet this is duty on a very personal level, and a duty that is ‘far’ from the bugles, which sound ‘hollo’. What is more, it will result in a fate that is far from glorious: that of becoming ‘food’, and lying in a field far from memory whilst his bones are ‘bleached’ along with those of his comrades.

The text would, I believe, support both interpretations. It is purely a matter of personal stance, although I would favour the latter. So you see why I now conclude that words themselves may be interpreted how you please - it is the effect that they have upon you as an individual. If this was not the case, then we would not get differing opinions on texts. Whilst one person might be indifferent to a particular poem or piece of prose, another might consider it the most poignant thing they had ever read. And why? Because the way the language was sculpted into its chosen format, and the words used to convey the ideas, affected them in an entirely unique way to everyone else.

Gwyn, I will state again that I am not disagreeing with you purely to make things awkward, or merely because I believe I can conclusively prove myself to be correct: quite simply, I have my own outlook and I am prepared to defend it. I also believe I can justify myself both academically and emotionally. Also, where on earth would we be if somebody did not occasionally stand back from things and play devil's advocate, as you were doing and I have now done?! That said, I am aware that I have a tendancy to make sweeping statements; it is something that has been pointed out to me before, so I must do all I can to rememdy it before Tuesday!! However, my invitation that I received also told me in so many words that I should not always feel obliged to agree with the interviewer, but that, provided I was prepared to justify myself with a reasoned argument, I should feel free to disagree with them if I felt myself so inclined!

Anyway, that's what I have to say :-)

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Hi Tom,

Great comments which apply equally to me re past education and my ability to appreciate poetry. All the best for your OU course and I hope you enjoy it and get a lot from it. Good onya for doing it.

Hi Katie,

Thank you for this great thread that brings another important perspective to the issue of war in general. Enjoyed reading your insightful and thoughtful commentary. I agree with much of what you say. Please keep contributing in this vein - it is very good.

I have a great deal of feeling for Sassoon and Owen and I think you have a very valid point regarding why they wrote. My own poor attempts to pen my experiences in verse were for similar reasons - although I must add without any artistic quality whatsoever. They currently sit in the bottom of a filing cabinet, their purpose having been satisfied.

Looking forward to reading more from you and your opinions on Great War poetry.

cheers

Chris

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All I am saying, Katie, is that there are people who, on seeing an intellectual loose ball, will catch it and take delight in defeating you in an argument.

Gwyn

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Far the calling bugles hollo,

<snip>

Three times in the poem various instruments are mentioned, one a 'high screaming fife', the others a 'steady drummer' and 'bugles hollo.' What is more, perhaps Housman's archaic spelling of 'hollow' implies he is drawing on tradition that he can relate to the noise of the bugles being somehow ancient.

<snip>

Yet this is duty on a very personal level, and a duty that is 'far' from the bugles, which sound 'hollo'.

Katie, not wishing to be one of the people Gwyn refers to, but you seem to be interpreting 'hollo' as an adjective — it isn't an archaic spelling of the adjective 'hollow', it's a verb meaning to give voice to a reverberating or echoing sound.

Thus the last four lines of the poem all end with a verb.

Mick

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Mick's right. That's how I read it. An archaic spelling of hollow might be holwe, holu or holh.

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This thread is starting to sound like a meeting of the Inklings, before I try to wrench it back on topic, may I just say good luck on Tuesday with your interview. I have no doubt you will be successful, the interviewers are well experienced, they will know a good one when they meet her. My tip for success, Horlicks and an early night, Monday.

A supplementary question here which is within hollerin' distance of the topic. Would Owen still attract attention if he had not been so closely associated with Sassoon.

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Thanks Tom :-) Hmm.... That's interesting and also quite tricky. There was one letter where Owen wrote to Sassoon 'O, World you are making for me!' And he also made references to him being a little comet that Sassoon had set into orbit around his own brilliant light. He was referring, I think, not only to Sassoon's greatness that enabled him to find his own voice, but also Sassoon's influence within the literary world that introduced him to such a wide circle of artists. Many of them did appreciate Owen for his own sake, I think, and not just because he was a prodigy of Sassoon's. In Not About Heroes, there is another scene which for me makes the goosebumps erupt - the character Sassoon uses the analogy of a mountain that they must all strive to ascend, and he tells Owen that he thinks he is already standing at the top, looking down on them all. For me, at least, that is correct. It does somehow seem, like on occasions when I read Owen's biography and there were certain experiences in the poet's life, and instances where I thought... only Owen would have reacted/behaved like that, perceived it that way, related it to that... it is almost as though he was motivated by greater forces than the rest of us can understand. It reminds me of the way Shelley portrays Keats in Adonais!!

About my 'hollo' verb/adjective thingy!! (no. 1 word I must avoid at all costs on Tuesday...) Well, that was precisely my point about how words may be read differently by every individual. And, oh no, don't go telling me my interpretation was wrong, because I don't see it that way. Usage of 'hollo' in its archaic form is something that is also used by Coleridge in his 'Rhyme of the Ancyent Marinere' - a mock mediaeval ballad. I thought it could be rather like that. Alternatively, if the word is, as you say, a verb for 'echoing' rather than an adjective - well, my essay supports that reading as well, because another point I made was that the 'idleness' of the poem, as stated by the title, and the 'sleepy' soldier lent it a narcotic feel, as though the soldiers sensations are somehow deadened. I identified that Housman uses a lot of assonance throughout, which perhaps gives the feel of melancholy echoing through the verses. Both would work, says I. It's subjective.

Well, back to the topic again :-) Owen probably would never have been published were it not for Sassoon... although Edmund Blunden also deserves some of the credit. But I also think, I really do, that we should honour the greater poet - and that was - Sir Wilfred Edward-Salter Owen.

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About my 'hollo' verb/adjective thingy!! (no. 1 word I must avoid at all costs on Tuesday...) Well, that was precisely my point about how words may be read differently by every individual. And, oh no, don't go telling me my interpretation was wrong, because I don't see it that way. Usage of 'hollo' in its archaic form is something that is also used by Coleridge in his 'Rhyme of the Ancyent Marinere' - a mock mediaeval ballad. I thought it could be rather like that. Alternatively, if the word is, as you say, a verb for 'echoing' rather than an adjective - .... It's subjective.

I'm afraid that it isn't. You made the point that Housman uses a spelling of 'hollo' to mean 'hollow'. You suggest that this is the same usage as STC's 'Rime of the AM'.

Referring to the AM, lines 70-72 are:

'The Albatross did follow;

And every day for food or play

Came to the Marinere's hollo!'

Lines 86 - 88 are:

'But no sweet bird did follow

Ne any day for food or play

Came to the Marinere's hollo!'

In this context, STC clearly means a call. He's showing the intimacy between the sailors and the Albatross; the Mariner's action in shooting the Albatross violates trust and sanctity. It does not mean, and nor is it an archaic spelling of, 'hollow'. It's a word which was recorded in the 16c and is still in use in some dialects.

An archaic spelling of 'hollow', the adjective, would be as I said above. You may have come across the spelling holwe in Chaucer.

This isn't a matter of interpretation or subjective reading, it's a matter of etymological fact.

Mick's logic is to do with the structure of the Housman poem. His thinking makes sense. I'll let him comment, if he wishes. I'm not going to say any more.

Gwyn

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Katie my choice of hollerin' in my previous thread wasn't accidental. It probably wasn't as amusing as I'd hoped but it was intended to show an American descendant of the word used at the present.

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Whoops, that didn't come out quite the way I intended it to!

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Katie my choice of hollerin' in my previous thread wasn't accidental. It probably wasn't as amusing as I'd hoped but it was intended to show an American descendant of the word used at the present.

I'm so sorry I didn't even notice! As ever, make light of the academic debating :-) Nice one!!

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Gwyn,

So, the verb is to call, in a resonant manner. I concede your point, but am curious as to why my English teacher did not point out the error before allowing me to submit the essay. Perhaps he thought my reasoning would hold water? I actually was unsure whether, in the context of the Marinere poem, 'hollo' might not have meant a noun, a hollow, a depression in the base of a tree, although thinking about it, I suppose that reading doesn't really make sense. I suppose 'hollo' is a relative, or vice versa, of the verb 'holler'? Is it, itself an archaism, because I don't recall having heard it used at all outside texts dating from at least a century ago? In that case, surely my arguement is equally as valid whatever the meaning.

It is a very small point in the essay, and can't have affected my chances, as I have the interview. What is more, I did find Mick's interpretation, that each line of the 2nd stanza, ended in a verb intriguing in that it seems to be at odds with the title 'Idle.' Also, the very fact that is is all these instruments that are making the clamour, whilst the soldier is content to drift away quite passively with the 'sleepiness' of streams; it does, as I may have stated previously, lend the poem an almost narcotic feel? As though the soldier is utterly removed from all the noise and action, and feels detached?

Anyway, we digress. 'Not About Heroes' presents both poets in a favourable light, rarely saying anything about either of them that strays from the conventional, yet somehow, achieving this so convincingly that you cannot help being convinced. I recommend the play to anybody, and would be interested to see who would agree with me. Anybody?? Well, miracles do occasionally happen ;)

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What is more, I did find Mick's interpretation, that each line of the 2nd stanza, ended in a verb intriguing in that it seems to be at odds with the title 'Idle.' Also, the very fact that is is all these instruments that are making the clamour, whilst the soldier is content to drift away quite passively with the 'sleepiness' of streams; it does, as I may have stated previously, lend the poem an almost narcotic feel? As though the soldier is utterly removed from all the noise and action, and feels detached?

I took the poem to be a description of the call to arms. The man on the hill is a civilian, drowsing in peacetime mode, until finally the clamour of the call to arms reaches him and he is stirred to action. So Mick's interpretation is correct - the contrast is between the idle civlian and the active soldier, thus the use of verbs, and that final line

'I will rise'.

Marina

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but am curious as to why my English teacher did not point out the error before allowing me to submit the essay.

At the risk of being drummed out of the Amalgamated Union of Dusty Pedagogues, I will let you into a little secret if you promise to keep it to yourself. It is this: teachers are not infallible.

Not a word......

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Adults can be too damned opinionated...not a word. And, I'm not sure if I'm laughing or not. Yes, Marina, you could be right, but it isn't conclusively proved. Housman's use of verbs could support either interpretation, if he even intended either to be drawn from the poem. As far as I am concerned, I could be right too. I couldn't help feeling that the 'lovely lads and dead and rotten' was the persepctive of a soldier rather than a civilian, and the 'bleached bones.' It is the realistic attitude of one who has seen what the slaughter is like, and who views the death of comrades with a nonchalance that is brought about by reptition - nothing he sees can shock him any more. The use of 'and' makes the line seem almost cruelly dismissive, as it as though they are at once both rotten and lovely, rather than once lovely, but now dead. To me, that is a soldier who is aware of the cruelty of war.

I will save the point about the verbs in the second stanza for the interview. But, the assonance throughout the poem does add to its sleepy feel?

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Reverting back to the original topic, Not About Heroes taught me things about Wilfred that I had not previously known, for example, this sonnet:

In that I loved you, Love, I worshipped you,

In that I worshipped well, I sacrificed

All of most worth. I bound and burnt and slew

Old peaceful lives; frail flowers; firm friends; and Christ.

I slew all falser loves; I slew all true,

That I might nothing love but your truth, Boy.

Fair fame I cast away as bridegrooms do

Their wedding garments in their haste of joy.

But when I fell upon your sandalled feet,

You laughed; you loosed away my lips; you rose.

I heard the singing of your wing's retreat;

Far-flown, I watched you flush the Olympian snows

Beyond my hoping. Starkly I returned

To stare upon the ash of all I burned.

In the play, the character Sassoon dismisses it as too 'lucsious' and 'a bit sweet for my tooth.' I cannot agree with that, I think it is a frightening poem which challenges so many of the ideals I was brought up to believe in. Does the fourth line mean that Wilfred metaphorically 'slew' Christ in favour of something he perceived as greater? I am aware that it is a common misconception that Wilfred lost his faith during the war: the Reverend Herbert Wigan could take much of the credit for that, I daresay. The 'greater' ideal that Wilfred seems to favour baffles me: the sonnet is entitled 'To Eros', so I assume he is in love with love itself. But surely religion does not deny him that pleasure? It is a frightening poem, too big for my liking, although an apt way of foreshadowing what he was to write about during the war:

GREATER LOVE

Red lips are not so red

As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.

Kindness of wooed and wooer

Seems shame to their love pure.

O Love, your eyes lose lure

When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude

Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,

Rolling and rolling there

Where God seems not to care;

Till the fierce love they bear

Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft,--

Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft,--

Your dear voice is not dear,

Gentle, and evening clear,

As theirs whom none now hear,

Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot

Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;

And though your hand be pale,

Paler are all which trail

Your cross through flame and hail:

Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

I think this was probably the most important. It's almost as though there are two identifiable stages to the poet's career: first, he dismisses religion in favour of decadance, aestheticism, and sensation. Then, he dismisses conventional amorous love in favour of sacrificial love. What I'm saying, basically, amounts to that the intensity of Wilfred Owen's poetry occasionally frightens me, because it seems to me he is directly assaulting many of the principles myself, and doubtless many others, have been brought up to believe in.

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