AD's English Literature : ‘Spring Offensive’ of Wilfred Owen: Offensive and Its Outcome

‘Spring Offensive’ of Wilfred Owen: Offensive and Its Outcome

 


 Wilfred Owen Masters the group of war poets who have the first hand experienced of modern war fare. ‘Spring Offensive’ like other poems of Owen, is an eloquent protest against the cruelties and horror of war and it is drawn on Owens own experience of the Anglo French offensive launched in April 1917 to attack the Germans who took shelter behind the river Somme in France.

            The very title of the poem embodies a conflict in the poem. The word ‘spring is a season of love and beauty, of birth and regeneration, of gala and union while offensive suggests an attack destruction oozing blood. Thus ‘Spring Offensive’ means an unnatural offense of war against nature. The violence of natural beauty and smoothness is the interpretation of the offensive which is quite contrary to the will of nature.

            In the poem we see that a troop of unidentified soldiers halting near the shade of a last hill. The soldiers have been fed and after having unloaded their load packs, are resting. Some soldiers are sleeping carelessly, leaning on the chests or knees of their fellow comrades:
"Halted against the shade of a last hill,
They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept."

 Wilfred Owen
Many soldiers stand still, acing the empty sky beyond ridge knowing in the heart of their hearts that they have just a few hours more to live. They are expecting the order, they watch the long grass being swirled by the may breeze, murmourous with wasp and midge and feel the pleasing summer oozing into their veins like an injected drug of their physical pain. They ponder over the field and the distant valley they have left behind:
" But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the world.
Marvelling they stood, and watched the long grass swirled
By the May breeze, murmurous with wasp and midge,
For though the summer oozed into their veins
Like the injected drug for their bones’ pains,
Sharp on their souls hung the imminent line of grass,
Fearfully flashed the sky’s mysterious glass." 

Their slow boots have been blessed with the golden pollens of the buttercups. The little brambles seem to couch and cling to them like the arms of sorrowing man. While remembering of these the soldiers’ remains standing motionless like trees before the gale:
"Hour after hour they ponder the warm field—
And the far valley behind, where the buttercups
Had blessed with gold their slow boots coming up,
Where even the little brambles would not yield,
But clutched and clung to them like sorrowing hands;
They breathe like trees unstirred.
Till like a cold gust thrilled the little word
At which each body and its soul begird
And tighten them for battle. No alarms
Of bugles, no high flags, no clamorous haste—
Only a lift and flare of eyes that faced
The sun, like a friend with whom their love is done.
O larger shone that smile against the sun,—
Mightier than his whose bounty these have spurned."

 Then the order offensive comes and the soldiers get ready for the attack. In a moment the whole sky seems to burn with furry as the enemy fired shells on them. There are holes on the ground field with their blood as cups containing some liquid. Thus the season as portrayed in the landscape is in sharp contrast with the hellish war scene:
"The few who rushed in the body to enter hell,
And there out-fiending all its fiends and flames
With superhuman inhumanities,.."

            In the concluding part the poet critically observes the whole hellish was shame. Owen attacks the so call romantic idealism of war. Owen aims at exposing the hoax of the statesman and the war monger who support the cause of war. The poet here puts a question “why speak not they of comrades that went under?” an eloquent answer lurks within the question. The poet says that the soldiers, who have better knowledge of the cruelty and horror of war at first hand, know only too well that the so-called glories of war are really nothing but immemorial shames. The war poet Owen thus clarifies that war has tripped of the joy of humanity, and the soldiers are made to indulge in ruthless killing or they are exposed to the bullets or shells of the enemy’s for no great reason.  


3 comments:

  1. The article was very helpful.A few citations from the text would have been better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Srijani, I've updated few lines.

    ReplyDelete

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