'Song of Songs' by Wilfred Owen, published in The Hydra


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. Shown here is ‘Song of Songs’, the first of Owen’s poems to appear in print and one of just five poems published in his lifetime. It appears anonymously in the 1 September 1917 issue.

‘Song of Songs’ is an early composition and, unlike the poetry for which Owen is now famous, it is a love lyric. Its significance lies in Owen’s exploration of pararhyme (‘laugh’, ‘leaf’, ‘Life’, for example), a device that he later used with great power in war poems such as ‘Strange Meeting’.

This issue of The Hydra also includes ‘Dreamers’ by Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon sent a copy of the magazine to Lady Ottoline Morrell, writing of ‘Song of Songs’, ‘The man who wrote this brings me quantities & I have to say kind things. He will improve, I think!’

Full title:
The Hydra: 1st September 1917
1 September 1917, Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh
Periodical / Ephemera / Photograph / Image
The Hydra, Wilfred Owen
Usage terms

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 photographer: This material is in the Public Domain.

Anonymous text: This material is in the Public Domain.

Wilfred Owen: This material is in the Public Domain.

Held by
The English Faculty Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford
The Hydra (3132/1880)

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