On Active Service: The Send-off by Wilfred Owen

This week we’ll be sharing a daily poetry reading from our On Active Service 1914-1918 collection as part of our Armistice commemorations. 

Today, volunteer Reader Leader Alison Walters reads The Send-off by Wilfred Owen in Birkenhead’s Hamilton Park, where a memorial to the war poet was unveiled earlier this week.

This poem and all the poems we’ll be sharing this week are available in a free, downloadable extract from the On Active Service anthology. Find out more.

You can also read along with the poem below.

The Send-off 

 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, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard. 

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent. 

Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers. 

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads. 

Wilfred Owen


This week we’re commemorating the centenary of the armistice with poetry readings from our anthology On Active Service 1914-1918. We’ve made a collection of poems from the anthology available as a free digital download so that you can read along at home. Find out more.

 

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