This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit); © English Faculty Library, The University of Oxford. Permitted Use.
Anonymous artist: This material is in the Public Domain.
While being treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital, Wilfred Owen edited six issues of the hospital’s magazine, The Hydra, beginning with the 21 July 1917 issue. This is the new front cover launched with the November 1917 issue, the same month Owen was discharged from the hospital.
Previously, The Hydra’s front cover featured a simple photograph of the hospital. In this hand drawn design, the hospital is portrayed in the top right corner. The anonymous artist depicts a man blasted from the battleground into the air where he recoils from a hydra, the deadly, many-headed monster of Greek mythology – the reference to this beast puns on ‘hydro’, the hospital’s pre-war title. Famously, each time one of the hydra’s heads was cut off, another grew back. Here, the pun is both humorous and evokes the nightmarish effects of war and illness. The image also perhaps suggests a feeling of futility towards the treatment of unpredictable, complex illnesses that affect both mind and body. The two nurses, levitating in the air, offer tea and medicine yet look passively on, unable to suppress such monstrous trauma.