21 August 2015

Disabled by Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen wrote ‘Disabled’ in 1917 at a time by which he had experienced the full horror of war in the trenches.  It is a long, narrative poem: vignettes of a young man’s life appear before us as he reminisces from his wheelchair.  Now, he is without arms or legs and he looks back to the time when he was ‘whole’.

Although Owen uses simple language throughout, probably to emphasize the fact that the soldier is just an ordinary man – and ‘everyman’ as it were, the poem uses a number of sophisticated poetic techniques to juxtapose the ‘then’ and ‘now’ reality of this soldier’s life. As the soldier’s life and body have been broken, Owen also deliberately breaks the rules of iambic pentameter to convey the man’s bewilderment about his current existence.  This video is an attempt to convey the soldier’s story, using images from the time (not all from Scotland, it must be admitted).

In my ‘other’ life I teach English and IT – and this is one of my summer holiday projects (which makes me sound quite sad, I suppose, but think of it as therapy!). I had been meaning to attempt to match images with the words of this poem for a while but it is so long I needed an extended period of time, doing a line or two from day to day.  I got there eventually and hope that it helps more people to become familiar with this very powerful poem.