Owen the Poet pp 180-192 | Cite as

‘Spring Offensive’

  • Dominic Hibberd


In his letters from France in September and October 1918 Owen used the word ‘serene’ to describe himself, privately reassuring his mother and Sassoon that his nerves were now in ‘perfect order’. ‘You would not know me for the poet of sorrows.’ He had no intention of reassuring anybody else, since civilians were not to imagine that any soldier overseas was contented, so he marked a particularly cheerful letter ‘Not to be hawked about’. It no longer seemed right to draw attention to his own experiences; whereas in 1917 he had asked for parts of his letters to be circulated, now even his letters about fighting were marked ‘Strictly private’ and ‘Not for circulation as a whole’. While he committed himself to serene activity, his anxious mother had taken to her bed. The last paragraph he ever wrote (31 October) sums up their respective roles:

I hope you are as warm as I am; as serene in your room as I am here; and that you think of me never in bed as resignedly as I think of you always in bed. Of this I am certain you could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here.

‘The shades keep down which well might roam her hall’; Mrs Owen’s passivity was not to be disturbed.1


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  1. 21.
    Cf. imagery of men as trees in Monro’s ‘Trees’ (Strange Meetings, 1917), a poem strongly influenced by Carpenter.Google Scholar

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© Dominic Hibberd 1986

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  • Dominic Hibberd

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