Apologia Pro Poemate Meo

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"Apologia Pro Poemate Meo" is a poem by Wilfred Owen. It deals with the atrocities of World War I. The title means "in defence of my poetry" and is often viewed as a rebuttal to a remark in Robert Graves' letter "for God's sake cheer up and write more optimistically - the war's not ended yet but a poet should have a spirit above wars."[1]

Alternatively, the poem is seen as a possible response to "Apologia Pro Vita Sua".

The poem describes some of the horrors of war and how this leads to a lack of emotion and a desensitisation to death. However the key message of the poem is revealed in the final two stanzas criticizing "you" at home (contemporary readers) for using war propaganda and images as a form of entertainment "These men are worth/ Your tears. You are not worth their merriment".

The full poem is as follows:

I, too, saw God through mud -

The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.

Merry it was to laugh there -

Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

I, too, have dropped off fear -

Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear
Past the entanglement where hopes lay strewn;

And witnessed exultation -

Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul.

I have made fellowships -

Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,

By Joy, whose ribbon slips, -

But wound with war's hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the webbing of the rifle-thong.

I have perceived much beauty

In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

Nevertheless, except you share

With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but the trembling of a flare,
And heaven but as the highway for a shell,

You shall not hear their mirth:

You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.


  1. ^ Wilfred Owen, Collected Letters, edited by Harold Owen and John Bell - London, 1967.