In the poem “The Send-Off”, Wilfred Owen describes war in a graphical and technical way. Owen, having been a soldier himself, expresses his crude view about war but in this poem especially about the soldiers departure to war. Wilfred Owen used to be a romantic poet very similar to John Keats. However he then changed his main theme of writing into that of war, after having experienced it itself and thus wanting to share the truth about war with the rest of the world. Rupert Brooke was another poet who wrote about war too, however he described it as something patriotic, glorious and heroic unlike Owen who describes it as something crude and aimless. Open himself, who had participated in war, died seven days before the actual war was ended (1893-1918). In fact, when he wrote about war, he explained what a useless waste of life it is, a pointless battle with a great loss. Throughout this poem he explains what is going on around these soldiers, what the people around them are seeing and what these soldiers are experiencing.
The poet introduces the poem by explaining that these soldiers are being hid in the night as they are sent to war, “Down the close darkening lanes”. However this only means that these soldiers are only being hid so that the people watching don’t feel guilt towards these soldiers who are being sent to war which means towards a very possible death. We must also understand that as these soldiers are going to war, they are already spiritually dead since they are psychologically traumatised. The soldiers also carry a gift of farewell on their uniforms, the “wreath” that symbolised their future death. Throughout the poem there is the depersonalisation, because these soldiers are being described in such a way that they seem to have lost their individuality and this also shows their detachment from their beloved ones and relatives. We must acknowledge that these innocent human beings are beings used as tools, weapons fighting for their country, and as animals being sent to slaughter.
Owen describes in an extremely crude way the indifference of most of the people surrounding these soldiers. He describes, and criticises indirectly the “dull porters” who are very unconcerned and disinvolved with the soldiers’ departure. Even a most insignificant “casual tramp” shows egoism and selfishness, in fact this beggar is only feeling sad for the soldiers’ departure because he will miss out on the food and money donations given to him usually by the soldiers, and this thought is very crude and heatless which is also reflecting war itself. Owen consequently uses personification as a contrast to the previous depersonalisation, when “unmoved, signals nodded”. In this phrase one may understand that even this lifeless object is untouched and emotionless towards these soldiers, but it is representing the signal for their departure towards their grandest fear of death and war. These signals are a distinction to the lifelessness of the soldiers, where the poet contrasts better the this lack of vitality where even a non-living object has more life in it than these sad soldiers. Even a lamp is alive, as it “Winked to the guard”. This is a secretive signal, representing the hidden leaving of these soldiers amidst the sheltering night, so as to cover the self- shame of the ones responsible for these soldiers being sent to war.
These soldiers represent the “wrongs hushed up” of the people, but they are not “wrongs” themselves. We who said them are doing wrong, but this truth is not seen by most of the people sending soldiers to war. Consequently these poor soldiers are being used to hide our shame from our sin of war, they are being used as tools. Owen’s aim is to open our eyes to the truth about war, of what would be going on, because ‘We cannot feel unless we can see’. There is a lack of knowledge amongst us all of what is truly going on within these soldiers, and thus we are not able to understand what their true feelings are. The poet is symbolising this lack of care and knowledge from the people by continuously calling the soldiers “they”, and indirect name which shows lack of individuality of these soldiers. The “flowers” given to them by the “women” are yet another symbol of their future death, as if they were putting these flowers on the graves of these soldiers, but again this is just imagery.
Owen uses depersonalisation and symbols till the end, and most of these show the death of the soldiers who would have died during the war. He also mentions the “loads”, which will probably be the masses of dead bodies of the poor victims of war, and again this is extremely harsh imagery were these bodies are treated like piles of junk. This foreshadows the cruel truth that even though these men died to save others, their deaths shall not be celebrated or commemorated ever, and “too few for drums and yells” of celebration will there be. This great loss of soldiers shall have no great significance for many persons, but just a victory for the whole country. Unfortunately, even the few surviving soldiers of war shall be ignored, and shall receive nothing in return for their noble deeds, but shall surely be traumatised and scared of this experience for the rest of their lives. On the other hand those who died shall only be forgotten, and this is the harsh crude reality to which the poet wants to open us to.
The poem is in four sections (stanzas), of five verses. The rhyming scheme is ABAAB, thus a fixed rhyming scheme representing the recurrence of the same sad ending during and after a war. The repeated rhyme (A) creates an effect of lack of freedom and change which the soldiers have, the lack of progression in their lives. The poem is also written in a certain structure where the first fifteen verses are of description and the in the last five verses there is reflection on the outcome of war and the poor souls of soldiers who died pointlessly during war.
I think that this poem is a very deep and reflective one as it gives a road to thought about the true significance of war and what lies truly behind war itself, the suffering, deaths and cruelty lying within us. The poet, having participated in war himself, is trying to open our eyes towards the pain we submit on innocent people who end up fighting as soldiers at war, who in the end don’t get what they deserve, that is the merited gratefulness for their extremely courageous deed. We should however learn from messages like Owen’s that war is aimless and causes great losses to countries but especially to a lot of families, and therefore we must truly recognize what has actually been going on in wars and what negative things they have brought with them throughout the years and actually do something to try to stop them.