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About this Poem 

“The Unreturning” is published in The Poems of Wilfred Owen (Chatto and Windus, 1933).

The Unreturning

Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled
Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled.
Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled
When far-gone dead return upon the world.

There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke.
Each one whom Life exiled I named and called.
But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled;
And never one fared back to me or spoke.

Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn
With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds,
The weak-limned hour when sick men’s sighs are drained.
And while I wondered on their being withdrawn,
Gagged by the smothering wing which none unbinds,
I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.

This poem is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit) ©. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This poem is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit) ©. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

One of the most admired poets of World War I, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen is best known for his poems "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Dulce et Decorum Est." He was killed in France on November 4, 1918.

by this poet

poem
Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterday’s Mail; the casualties (typed small)
And (large) Vast Booty from our Latest Haul.
Also, they read of Cheap Homes, not yet planned;
For, said the paper, “When this war is done
The men’s first instinct will be making homes.
Meanwhile their foremost need is
poem
Halted against the shade of a last hill,
They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept. 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
poem
I mind as ’ow the night afore that show
Us five got talking,—we was in the know,
“Over the top to-morrer; boys, we’re for it,
First wave we are, first ruddy wave; that’s tore it.”
“Ah well,” says Jimmy,—an’ ’e’s seen some scrappin’—
“There ain’t more nor five things as can ’appen;
Ye get knocked out; else wounded