Irony: Soldiers, who are meant to protect others, need protection themselves.
“The ode to a nightingale”
Owen originally planned to title it “Nothing Happens,” but changed it at last to “Exposure.” The title has several implications; first among them, the exposure of the men to the elements and to imminent danger, but beyond that, the exposure of the insanity, futility and precariousness of their position. A third level of meaning of the title will become clear as we read of the men’s exhausted musings, indeed, hallucinations, about home: they know that even if they survive, they can never return. They are exposed mentally, morally, spiritually. Their condition, the violence of their role, has carried them beyond safety, comfort, even love. Yet for this unconscionable task they “were born,” Owen says; and with it, “love of God seems dying.” These men are exposed utterly and ultimately – their souls are stripped naked to the fingering of the black snow
Most noticeable or important
Evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret
They are accepting suffering and fate.
Suffering by snow is slow and torturous whereas bullets are immediate.
Change in mood, tone and atmosphere
From aggressive to calm and passive
1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us ...
2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent ...
3 Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient ...
4 Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
5 But nothing happens.
6 Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
7 Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
8 Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
9 Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
10 What are we doing here?
11 The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow ...
12 We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
13 Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
14 Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
15 But nothing happens.
16 Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
17 Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
18 With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
19 We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
20 But nothing happens.
21 Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces--
22 We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
23 Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
24 Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
25 Is it that we are dying?
26 Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
27 With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
28 For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
29 Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed--
30 We turn back to our dying.
31 Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
32 Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
33 For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
34 Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
35 For love of God seems dying.
36 To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
37 Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
38 The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
39 Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
40 But nothing happens.
The first three verses are characteristic: in verse one we find the number of syllables as 14, 13,13,14 and the refrain of 5; in verse two, 12, 13, 14, 12 and 6; in verse three, 12, 13, 13, 12 and 5, and so on through the poem.
There may be movement, there may not; there is wailing wind tugging at barbed wire, twitching, brambled, there is tense silence and rumors – nothing is certain.
That is why all the metrics are obscure, jagged, and uneven.
Green = Imagery
The minds of the dying men are driven back to the battlefield because of the fear that if the enemy isn’t conquered that there will never be fires burning in the hearths of home again. He mentions children enjoying the sunshine, another reason that the war is for a just cause, to give security to the generations to come.
The final part of the poem relates how the dead bodies will be found frozen with the mud by those designated to handle and remove bodies. Owen describes the unpleasant reality of fulfilling this last duty for comrades, some acquaintances, in these terrible conditions and the numbness of emotions that it would cause.
Nature is used throughout the poem, its effect on the body, the coldness of the wind and snow; the fussing of the blackbird, in contrast to the stillness and the silence of the dawn; the innocence of the mice freely enjoying the warmth and comfort of the empty home, while the soldier is away.
The exposure is not only to the cruelty of war, but also experiencing the cruelty of nature
It describes a personal experience of being so cold that they begin to hallucinate and eventually, one soldier dies. To begin with, the title is a summary of how soldiers are mentally stripped of human dignity because they are broken by the tedium, exposed to death. The title harshly, but accurately condenses the poem.
Gives a direct view of the front line of the war based on Owens experiences in the winter of 1917
The poem "exposure" by Wilfred Owen is written in Winter of 1917. It portrays the message of the real enemy of the soldiers being the cold and icy conditions. Moreover, it provides us with a lively description of the persistent cold and awful conditions during one of the worst winters in the first world war. It shows that most of the soldiers were exposed rather than shot by enemies. The poem portrays all the opposing facts to make young men not join the war as it is nothing heroic. Owen uses all his senses to describe the frosty atmosphere and sets a lamenting and descriptive tone. The rhyme scheme is ABBA and the stanzas are continuous, emphasizing the continuous suffering of the British. It is written in first person plural, which makes us feel with the soldiers and put ourselves into their position.
The men appear trapped in a No Man's Land between life and death, and the poem's movement is circular. When it ends, they are exactly where they were in the first verse
Owen originally planned to title it “Nothing Happens,” but changed it at last to “Exposure.” The title has several implications; first among them, the exposure of the men to the elements and to imminent danger, but beyond that, the exposure of the insanity, futility and precariousness of their position. A third level of meaning of the title will become clear as we read of the men’s exhausted musings, indeed, hallucinations, about home: they know that even if they survive, they can never return. They are exposed mentally, morally, spiritually. Their condition, the violence of their role, has carried them beyond safety, comfort, even love. Yet for this unconscionable task they “were born,” Owen says; and with it, “love of God seems dying.”
Passive suffering; Anxiety; Suspense; Frustration
Owen- Born Christian
Was very religious
Starts to question god’s intentions
Erratic/inconsistent rhyme scheme
Tone- hopeful, disappointment, impatient
There are no straight rhymes in the poem; all are near-rhymes. The rhyme scheme itself is regular, but odd: a/b/b/a/c; d/e/e/d/f, and so on throughout
Internal rhyme – unstable, unpredictable, ‘jumpy’ ‘silence, sentries’
sibilant alliteration sounds like whispers
actions blend into one another: ‘silence, sentries’
Disorder and confusion amidst the tension of ‘silence’.
‘But nothing happens’ – futile frustration.
• The men appear trapped in a No Man‘s Land between life and death
• Poem's movement is circular: when it ends, they are exactly where they were in the first verse.