1914 - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism in 1914

Owen uses an extended metaphor throughout the sonnet 1914. He sees the birth, growth, blossoming and death of civilisation in terms of the changing seasons of the year. Ancient Greece saw the birth of learning. ‘Spring has bloomed’ l.9. The ‘glory’ that was Rome ‘blazed’ and the ‘summer’ turned to the Autumn of the pre-war world ‘rich with all increase’. This autumn however ‘rots’ l.8. The ‘human grain’ which would have ensured the return of spring in the natural order of things ‘rots’. The seed needed to sow for future autumn harvests will now be the blood of the fallen.

Investigating imagery and symbolism...

  • The image of seed time and harvest is one that Owen uses several times in his poetry. Re-read Exposure and Futility.
    • What does Owen say about spring time in those poems?
  • The poem The Parable of the Old Man and the Young also contains imagery of ‘the need / Of sowings for new Spring’. Make a note of what all four of these poems have in common.

Themes in 1914

Owen presents us with the theme of the destructive nature of war in 1914. He regards it as halting the progress of civilisation, either tearing it up or forcing it to retreat (‘Art’s ensigns’ ‘furled’). The theme of sacrifice is also introduced in the last line of the sonnet: ‘the need’ of ‘blood for seed.’

Investigating themes in 1914...

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