Thursday, 30 December 2010

3. End Game

What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
- Wilfred Owen (1917 - Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh)

one king surveys the board
almost now deserted
the soldiers dead or dying
the bishops gone
and too the queen

perhaps a cornered knight
or an isolated rook remains
but whatever it is
it is not enough
to win the game

the cost was great
the gains were small
and then the cause
whate'er it was
is lost, forgot

but kings can't die
and so he offers the other truce -
it is refused

that other king must seize
the chance to win

two token moves are made
not quite a skirmish
more a ploy
for now there's nothing more to do
before the coming mate in two

and so he leaves
the field of play

and thereby wins another day

Wilfred Owen died on 4th November 1918. He was aged 25.


  1. yes poor Wilfred didn't get many days (the hospital is very close to my home) best wishes to you and your loved ones for 2011

  2. Thank you John.

    Och aye!

    and the best of bardic for 2011,

  3. I once did this poem in an English lesson with a class of nigh-unmanageable sixteen year old west indian boys - they were spellbound by it and it has stayed with me ever since. Happy new year to you Gwilym - good health and many blogs too.

  4. Pat,


    I only wrote it today.

    Of course you mean the quote. I know that. Just teasing.

  5. Wonderful poet, Wilfred Owen and that you are so inspired by him to write yours - men who die like cattle are not dissimilar to pieces on a chess board. Thanks, Gwilym

  6. Thank you Elisabeth.
    "I am not concerned with poetry. The subject is war and the pity of war...the poetry is in the pity...that is why true poets must be truthful..." W.O.


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