The Mustard Gas Phantasies of Wilfred Owen 2009
On November 4, 1918, exactly one week before the signing of the Armistace that ended the Great War, 2nd Lieutenant Wilfred Owen was killed at the Sambre-Oise Canal, in northern France. He was twenty-five years old. His fame, and his Military Cross medal, were awarded to him posthumously.
Owen is now recognized as one of the greatest of the "Trench Poets," those young men who transformed their experiences on the battlefield into poetic verse. At the time of his death, he had published five poems, most of them in an impromptu literary journal which Owen himself edited and published, as he was being treated for "shell shock" at Cocklingheart War Hospital.
I don't like poetry, but I love the poetry of Wilfred Owen. His depiction of the horrors of trench warfare are rife with rich visual metaphor. His descriptions are tactile and visceral. Transforming the anguish and bloodshed of war into gritty and lofty words is an act of purest devotion and bravery.
The Mustard Gas Phantasies of Wilfred Owen is an homage to this supremely imaginative young man. I envisioned what sort of hallucinatory visions he may have had as he was lying on the battlefield in the quiet moments of the war.
The modern world was born in the last moment of his life, emerging from his fevered dreams. Poetic sensitivity, the great refuge of the Romantic, was assassinated by the horror of industrialized slaughter. Civilization has been poorer for it ever since.