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Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: February 27, 2004 08:59PM

Apparently, an archaeological dig has discovered the dug-out Owen was referring to.

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The Sentry
by Wilfred Owen

We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses. . . .
There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And splashing in the flood, deluging muck --
The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
"O sir, my eyes -- I'm blind -- I'm blind, I'm blind!"
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.
"I can't," he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good, --
I try not to remember these things now.
Let dread hark back for one word only: how
Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath --
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
"I see your lights!" But ours had long died out.


Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: February 28, 2004 03:03PM

Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime

He knows how to put you right there beside him, no doubt about it.

Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Henry (213.78.162.---)
Date: February 29, 2004 08:50AM

Yes, I read it in The Guardian on Wednesday.

Owen was posted briefly to the School of Musketry in Fleetwood. I wonder if the rifle butts we used at school originally belonged to the Musketry School. The building for the School is now the North Euston Hotel. The owner has mounted a display about Owen, who lodged nearby in Bold Street. Both couples of the owner's grandparents lived in Bold Street, each side of Owen's lodgings. He feels sure that one morning one of them must have left the house at the same time as Owen, and would have exchanged "Good morning" with him on Bold Street.

Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: March 02, 2004 07:23PM

Archeology and poetry ... you could write several books about the relationship. It was, after all, the ILIAD that inspired the search for (and discovery of) the ruins of Troy, a city which for centuries had been supposed to be entirely fictional.

Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: russ (
Date: March 02, 2004 09:15PM

I loved and hated Flanders Field
And loved the Gharge of the Light Brigade
This one I'm not sure about at all
Thanks for the stretch.

Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Linda (
Date: March 19, 2004 05:44PM

Well, I watched the TV programme. I must admit I've always found this series more gimmicky than Time Team. If you're not familiar with the series (Meet the) Ancestors, they always have to find human bones (I assume we never see the digs in which there arn't any). Previous series used forensic artists to recreate the faces of skulls found in the dig, Saxon, Viking type people. This series is digging more recent sites and taking a descendant of the body to see the site. One programme had the several times great nephew of one of Nelson's captains killed at the Battle of the Nile (the captain had no children to leave direct descendants). This one had Owen's grandson(?) who at least could contribute letters from Owen to his mother and still kept in the family.

Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Sean Rymell (
Date: April 17, 2004 05:39PM


I don't have anything to say about "The Sentry", but I was wondering if anyone knew which Wilfred Owen poem the lines "and in the happy no-time of his sleeping, death takes him by the hand" is from



Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: glenda (
Date: April 17, 2004 10:27PM

Wilfred Owens 1917

Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After so many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.

There, in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There heaved a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping,
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.

And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intruding lead, like ants on track.

Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking
Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars,
High-pillowed on calm pillows of God's making,
Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead,
And these winds' scimitars,
—Or whether yet his thin and sodden head
Confuses more and more with the low mould,
His hair being one with the grey grass
Of finished fields, and wire-scrags rusty-old,
Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold,
Than we who wake, and waking say Alas!

Re: Wilfred Owen's The Sentry
Posted by: Sean Rymell (
Date: April 18, 2004 01:29PM

Thank you very much


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