'At a Calvary Near the Ancre' by Wilfred Owen

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One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate

Editor 1 Interpretation

At a Calvary Near the Ancre: A Poem of War and Sacrifice by Wilfred Owen

Are there any words that could truly capture the horror and despair of war? Poets have tried for centuries to convey the brutality and senselessness of armed conflict, and few have done so as powerfully as Wilfred Owen. His poem "At a Calvary Near the Ancre" is a haunting depiction of a soldier's death and the sacrifice he makes for his country. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this classic work of poetry.


Before we dive into the poem itself, it's important to understand the context in which it was written. Wilfred Owen was a soldier in World War I, fighting for the British army on the Western Front. He experienced the horrors of trench warfare firsthand, witnessing the deaths of countless comrades and suffering from shell shock himself. Owen's poetry is deeply rooted in his experiences as a soldier, and "At a Calvary Near the Ancre" is no exception.

The poem was written in 1917, during the Battle of the Ancre, which was part of the larger Battle of the Somme. The battle was fought between British and German forces, and it resulted in over 18,000 British casualties. The Ancre River ran through the battlefield, and it was during this battle that Owen witnessed the scene that inspired his poem.


"At a Calvary Near the Ancre" explores several themes that are common in Owen's poetry. One of the most prominent themes is sacrifice. The poem depicts a soldier who dies while attempting to save his fellow soldiers. He is described as a "knight of faith" who gives his life "to make men free." This theme of sacrifice is central to Owen's poetry, as he often portrays soldiers as heroic figures who are willing to give everything for their country, even if it means their own death.

Another theme that is present in the poem is the futility of war. Owen was deeply disillusioned by the war and its effects on the soldiers who fought in it. He believed that the war was senseless and that the sacrifices made by soldiers were in vain. This theme is reflected in the final lines of the poem, which describe the soldier's death as a "senseless sacrifice." The poem suggests that the war has no purpose and that the soldiers who fight in it are ultimately doomed to die for nothing.


Owen's use of imagery in "At a Calvary Near the Ancre" is particularly powerful. The poem begins with a description of the soldier's death:

In the sun-baked mud, the sunken road, A British soldier lay, His throat was cut from ear to ear, His trousers soaked in blood.

This opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The image of the soldier lying in the mud with his throat cut is a gruesome one, and it immediately conveys the horror of war. The description of his trousers soaked in blood is particularly vivid, as it suggests that the soldier has been lying there bleeding for some time.

The poem also uses religious imagery to convey the soldier's sacrifice. The title of the poem refers to Calvary, the site of Jesus' crucifixion. The soldier is described as a "knight of faith" who gives his life to make men free. This language suggests that the soldier's sacrifice is similar to that of Jesus, who also gave his life for the sake of others.


Owen's use of language in "At a Calvary Near the Ancre" is both powerful and poignant. He uses simple, direct language to convey the horror of war and the sacrifices made by soldiers. The poem is written in a plain, unadorned style that is reminiscent of the soldiers' own speech.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of repetition. The phrase "His throat was cut from ear to ear" is repeated twice, emphasizing the brutality of the soldier's death. The repetition also serves to reinforce the sense of horror and despair that permeates the poem.

The poem also uses alliteration to create a sense of rhythm and momentum. The phrase "sun-baked mud" is an example of this, as is the repetition of the "s" sound in the phrase "sunk in blood." These elements contribute to the poem's overall impact, making it both memorable and moving.


Wilfred Owen's "At a Calvary Near the Ancre" is a powerful work of poetry that captures the horror and senselessness of war. Through its themes, imagery, and language, the poem conveys the sacrifices made by soldiers and the futility of their efforts. It is a haunting reminder of the toll that war takes on those who fight in it, and it serves as a tribute to those who gave their lives for their country. As we continue to struggle with the effects of war in our own time, Owen's poem remains a poignant reminder of the cost of conflict.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry At a Calvary Near the Ancre: A Masterpiece of War Poetry

Wilfred Owen, one of the most celebrated war poets of the 20th century, wrote Poetry At a Calvary Near the Ancre in 1917 during his service in World War I. The poem is a powerful and moving depiction of the horrors of war and the impact it has on soldiers. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, imagery, and language.

The poem is set near the Ancre River in France, where Owen was stationed during the war. The title of the poem refers to the Calvary, a Christian symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which is located near the Ancre River. The use of this symbol is significant as it highlights the religious and spiritual themes that are present throughout the poem.

The poem is divided into two stanzas, each with six lines. The first stanza describes the scene of the Calvary, with its "black-combed chapels" and "crosses planted". The imagery here is stark and powerful, with the use of the color black suggesting death and mourning. The crosses planted in the ground are a reminder of the many soldiers who have died in the war.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the soldiers themselves, describing their physical and emotional state. The soldiers are described as "hollow-eyed" and "gaunt", with their faces "grimed" and their bodies "broken". The use of these words creates a vivid image of the toll that war has taken on these men. They are no longer the strong and healthy soldiers they once were, but rather broken and damaged.

The poem also contains several religious references, which add to its overall theme of sacrifice and redemption. The soldiers are described as "martyrs" and "crucified", suggesting that they have given their lives for a greater cause. The use of the word "martyrs" is particularly significant, as it implies that the soldiers have died for a noble cause, just as Jesus Christ died for the sins of humanity.

The poem also contains several references to nature, which serve to contrast the beauty of the natural world with the horrors of war. The Ancre River is described as "silver", and the trees are "green", creating a peaceful and idyllic scene. However, this beauty is juxtaposed with the image of the soldiers, who are "broken" and "grimed". This contrast serves to highlight the brutality of war and the toll it takes on both the soldiers and the natural world.

The language used in the poem is simple and direct, yet powerful and evocative. The use of short, sharp sentences creates a sense of urgency and immediacy, drawing the reader into the poem. The repetition of certain words and phrases, such as "broken" and "grimed", serves to reinforce the image of the soldiers as damaged and broken.

The poem also contains several examples of alliteration and assonance, which add to its overall musicality. For example, the phrase "black-combed chapels" contains both alliteration and assonance, creating a memorable and striking image. The use of these literary devices serves to enhance the emotional impact of the poem, making it more powerful and memorable.

In conclusion, Poetry At a Calvary Near the Ancre is a masterpiece of war poetry, which captures the horror and brutality of war in a powerful and moving way. The use of religious and spiritual themes, as well as references to nature, serve to create a complex and multi-layered poem that is both beautiful and tragic. The language used in the poem is simple yet powerful, and the use of literary devices such as alliteration and assonance serves to enhance its emotional impact. Overall, this poem is a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in World War I, and a reminder of the terrible cost of war.

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