Wilfred Owen was a British soldier in World War I who wrote poems about the suffering of soldiers and the uselessness of their deaths. In the opening lines of his beautiful poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth," he writes, "What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? — Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle." Using alliteration such as "rifles' rapid rattle," Owen emphasizes the relentlessness of war and the way in which soldiers die without commemoration such as bells. Instead, the dead are only mourned with continued gunfire that makes soldiers into creatures no more valued than cattle.
Other poems in which he comments on the hideous nature of the war are "Dulce et Decorum Est," in which he writes movingly and with horror about a surprise gas attack on a marching band of soldiers. In the final lines of the poem, he writes that if the reader could hear "at every jolt, the blood/Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,/Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud/Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—" the reader would never say, as the title suggests in a phrase taken from the Roman poet Horace, that it is sweet and proper to die for one's country.
In "A Terre," Owen describes the physical and mental plight of a wounded soldier. He writes, "Both arms have mutinied against me,—brutes. My fingers fidget like ten idle brats." In this passage, he effectively compares his wounded arms to rebellious soldiers and his fingers to brats because his body is no longer under his control. His body parts are also perhaps expressing the anger and rebellion he feels for a war he considers hopeless.
Wilfred Owen himself suffered from what was then termed "shell shock" and what is today better known as post-traumatic stress disorder. He was treated and then returned to the front, only to die in battle shortly before the armistice that ended World War I. His poetry was some of the first to challenge the patriotic themes that had largely been written about by British poets. His work characterized World War I not as an exercise in patriotism or pride but as a futile battle that was senseless and deadly to the soldiers who fought in it.