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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And while I wondered on their being withdrawn,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
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.  

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then,
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
poem
His fingers wake, and flutter up the bed.
His eyes come open with a pull of will,
Helped by the yellow may-flowers by his head.
A blind-cord drawls across the window-sill . . .
How smooth the floor of the ward is! what a rug!
And who’s that talking, somewhere out of sight?
Why are they laughing? What’s inside