by: Wilfred Owen


      HAPPY are men who yet before they are killed
      Can let their veins run cold.
      Whom no compassion fleers
      Or makes their feet
      Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
      The front line withers,
      But they are troops who fade, not flowers
      For poets' tearful fooling:
      Men, gaps for filling
      Losses who might have fought
      Longer; but no one bothers.


      And some cease feeling
      Even themselves or for themselves.
      Dullness best solves
      The tease and doubt of shelling,
      And Chance's strange arithmetic
      Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
      They keep no check on Armies' decimation.


      Happy are these who lose imagination:
      They have enough to carry with ammunition.
      Their spirit drags no pack.
      Their old wounds save with cold can not more ache.
      Having seen all things red,
      Their eyes are rid
      Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever.
      And terror's first constriction over,
      Their hearts remain small drawn.
      Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
      Now long since ironed,
      Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.


      Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
      How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
      And many sighs are drained.
      Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
      His days are worth forgetting more than not.
      He sings along the march
      Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
      The long, forlorn, relentless trend
      From larger day to huger night.


      We wise, who with a thought besmirch
      Blood over all our soul,
      How should we see our task
      But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
      Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
      Dying, not mortal overmuch;
      Nor sad, nor proud,
      Nor curious at all.
      He cannot tell
      Old men's placidity from his.


      But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
      That they should be as stones.
      Wretched are they, and mean
      With paucity that never was simplicity.
      By choice they made themselves immune
      To pity and whatever mourns in man
      Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
      Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
      Whatever shares
      The eternal reciprocity of tears.

"Insensibility" is reprinted from Poems. Wilfred Owen. New York: The Viking Press, 1921.




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