'The End' by Wilfred Owen

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After the blast of lightning from the east,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot throne,
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased
And from the bronze west long retreat is blown,

Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul, all tears assuage?
Or fill these void veins full again with youth
And wash with an immortal water age?

When I do ask white Age, he saith not so, --
"My head hangs weighed with snow."
And when I hearken to the Earth she saith
My fiery heart sinks aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified
Nor my titanic tears the seas be dried."

Editor 1 Interpretation

The End: A Critical Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s Poem

As the world was engulfed in the flames of the First World War, the young poet Wilfred Owen was at the forefront of the battlefronts in France. He witnessed the horrors of war firsthand and expressed his experiences in his poetry. “The End” is one such poem, written in 1918, months before his death. In this essay, we will analyze and interpret Owen’s poem, unraveling its themes and the poet’s message.


To fully understand the poem, it is important to know some background information about the poet and the era he was living in. Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 in Shropshire, England. He was a teacher before the war, but his patriotism drove him to enlist in the army. He served in France and was diagnosed with shell shock in 1917, which allowed him to return home. However, his sense of duty and moral obligations pushed him back to the front lines, where he died in November 1918, just one week before the armistice.

The First World War was a turning point in the history of human civilization. It was the first industrialized war, where advanced weapons and technology were used on a massive scale. The war claimed the lives of millions of people, leaving behind a trail of devastation and destruction. The war changed the way people viewed themselves, their nations, and the world.


“The End” is a poem that reflects the sense of disillusionment and despair that Wilfred Owen felt towards the war. It is a powerful and poignant statement on the futility of war and the senseless loss of human life.


The poem is structured in three stanzas, with six lines each. The rhyme scheme is AABCCB. The use of regular rhyme and meter creates a sense of balance and harmony, which is in contrast to the chaotic and brutal nature of the war. The poem is written in the present tense, which gives the impression that the poet is witnessing the events as they unfold.


The language used in the poem is stark and simple, but it conveys a powerful message. The poet uses vivid and graphic imagery to describe the horrors of war. The opening line, “After the blast of lightning from the east,” creates a sense of anticipation and dread. The “blast of lightning” is a metaphor for the war and the destruction it causes.

The second stanza is particularly powerful, as the poet describes the “shrieking iron” and the “dull, heavy, susurration” of the gas shells. The use of onomatopoeia and alliteration creates a sense of chaos and confusion. The gas shells are described as “green sea” that engulfs the soldiers. The metaphor of the sea is a powerful image, evocative of drowning and suffocation.

The final stanza is a stark reminder of the human cost of war. The poet describes the soldiers dying “as cattle” and the “flames and scorching agony” they endure. The use of the simile “as cattle” is particularly poignant, as it suggests that the soldiers are mere objects to be slaughtered.


The poem explores several themes, such as war, death, and the futility of human existence.


The central theme of the poem is war. The poet presents a powerful and vivid account of the horrors of war, which includes the use of gas shells, flamethrowers, and other weapons. The poem is a stark reminder of the human cost of war, as the soldiers are described as dying “as cattle.” The poet suggests that war is a senseless and tragic waste of human life.


Death is another important theme in the poem. The poet describes the soldiers dying in agony and flames, which creates a sense of despair and hopelessness. The use of vivid and graphic imagery emphasizes the finality and inevitability of death.

Futility of Human Existence

The final theme of the poem is the futility of human existence. The poet suggests that human life is meaningless, as it can be snuffed out in an instant by the horrors of war. The final line of the poem, “And War will sink where the sun goes down,” suggests that war is a fleeting and transitory phenomenon, which will be forgotten in the grand scheme of things.


In conclusion, “The End” is a powerful and poignant poem that reflects the disillusionment and despair felt by Wilfred Owen towards the war. The poem is a stark reminder of the human cost of war and the senseless loss of human life. The vivid and graphic imagery used by the poet creates a sense of chaos and confusion, which emphasizes the futility of war. The themes of war, death, and the futility of human existence are explored in the poem, creating a powerful and evocative statement on the human condition.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The End: A Poem of War and Death

Wilfred Owen's "The End" is a haunting and powerful poem that captures the horrors of war and the inevitability of death. Written during World War I, the poem reflects the author's own experiences as a soldier on the front lines, witnessing the destruction and devastation of battle. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in "The End," and examine how they contribute to the poem's overall impact.

The poem begins with a stark and ominous image: "After the blast of lightning from the east, / The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot throne." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, conveying a sense of impending doom and destruction. The "blast of lightning" suggests a sudden and violent event, while the "flourish of loud clouds" evokes the chaos and confusion of battle. The "Chariot throne" is a reference to the biblical story of Elijah, who was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. This image suggests that the speaker is witnessing a similar apocalyptic event, one that will bring about the end of the world.

As the poem continues, the speaker describes the aftermath of the blast: "The mountain smokes, the dew falls thick and still." Here, the imagery shifts from the violent and chaotic to the calm and still. The "mountain smokes" suggests that something has been destroyed, while the "dew falls thick and still" creates a sense of quiet and stillness. This contrast between destruction and stillness is a recurring theme throughout the poem, reflecting the paradoxical nature of war and death.

The speaker then describes the scene around him: "The jungle-chasm'd sea laps miles away, / Foam-bitten beaches, lines of white sea-horses." This imagery creates a sense of distance and separation, as if the speaker is observing the scene from a great distance. The "jungle-chasm'd sea" suggests a wild and untamed landscape, while the "foam-bitten beaches" and "lines of white sea-horses" evoke the beauty and power of nature. This contrast between the natural world and the man-made destruction of war is another recurring theme in the poem.

The speaker then turns his attention to the soldiers around him: "The gnarled escarpments rocked with ragged stone, / The guns were silent, and the silent hills / Had bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze." The "gnarled escarpments" and "ragged stone" suggest a harsh and unforgiving landscape, while the "silent hills" and "gentle breeze" create a sense of calm and tranquility. The fact that the guns are silent suggests that the battle is over, and the soldiers are now left to contemplate the aftermath of the destruction they have wrought.

The speaker then describes the soldiers themselves: "The chattering birds pecked at the sallow-faced, / Their ravening hearts and gave them rest, / The worms drew comfort from the mouldering flesh / And swarmed up to their eyes in fine array." This imagery is perhaps the most disturbing in the poem, as it depicts the soldiers as nothing more than carrion for the birds and worms. The "sallow-faced" soldiers are now dead and decaying, their bodies providing sustenance for the natural world. This image reinforces the idea that war is ultimately futile and destructive, and that death is the inevitable outcome.

The final stanza of the poem brings the themes of destruction and stillness to a climax: "Blow, trumpets, all your exultations blow! / For never shall we see again / The sunken faces of the dead / Nor hear their cries of agony." The "trumpets" suggest a final call to arms, a last hurrah before the end. The fact that the soldiers will "never see again / The sunken faces of the dead" reinforces the finality of death, while the "cries of agony" suggest the pain and suffering that war inflicts on its victims.

In conclusion, "The End" is a powerful and haunting poem that captures the horrors of war and the inevitability of death. Through its vivid imagery and stark language, the poem conveys a sense of impending doom and destruction, while also highlighting the paradoxical nature of war and the beauty of the natural world. Ultimately, the poem suggests that war is a futile and destructive endeavor, one that leads only to death and destruction. As such, it remains a powerful reminder of the human cost of conflict, and a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience.

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