“England one by one had fled to France”: French and British Imaginaries in Wilfred Owen’s poems


Wilfred Owen, sonnet, imaginary, cultural transfers, Verlaine, heterolinguism, ecopoetics

This paper challenges the idea of Wilfred Owen as a British literary orphan who had to set himself under French poetic influences. Relying on the concept of imaginary, this paper shows how French landscapes are but a vague, land-disconnected support for the poet’s idiosyncratic meditations and how the sparse use of French words in his poetry is not directly connected to any imaginary of France proper. A comparison between Owen’s “On a Dream” with Verlaine’s “Mon rêve familier” goes further in nuancing any clear French influence on the English poet. Finally, a comprehensive analysis of the sonnets’ rhyming schemes throughout Owen’s work underlines how any suggestion of French influence must be understood through broader aesthetics of variety.

Cet article discute la thèse qui voudrait que Wilfred Owen soit un orphelin littéraire britannique, qui aurait trouvé sa place au moyen d’influences poétiques françaises. En utilisant le concept d’imaginaire comme prisme d’analyse, on étudie l’évocation de paysages français et l’usage restreint du lexique francophone, guère reliés chez Owen à un imaginaire de la France elle-même. Une comparaison de « On a Dream » avec « Mon rêve familier » de Verlaine permet de nuancer davantage l’influence de la poésie française sur le poète anglais. Pour finir, une analyse exhaustive des schémas de rimes employés par Owen dans ses sonnets souligne à quel point cette influence ne peut être comprise qu’au sein de l’évocation plus large d’une esthétique de la variété.


As a comparatist scholar of the sonnet, I was first driven to reading Wilfred Owen through his diversified use of the form, which led me to discover a poet in the fullness of the term. The sonnet form has functioned as a gateway to the study of his work, which has led me to formulate a few hypotheses related to Owen’s poetic relation with France, which I find ambiguous.

 Owen Knowles has already noted (Knowles 7) the inner contradiction between Owen’s perception of himself, in January 1913 (Owen 1967, 172), as a literary orphan and his use of the sonnet – a form inherited from the Victorians and Georgians – that starts immediately afterwards: the poet is one of the most prominent renovators of the British sonnet during the First World War.

My assumption is therefore that, although Owen did read French literature and to a certain extent set himself in the French landscape, in both a literary and a literal sense, the sonnet can function as a touchstone of the primarily English nature of his work during his sojourns in France.

In order to assess that specific nature, I will use the notion of imaginary, meaning all the pre-formed representations of the world and of all ideas which help an individual project his mind towards the superior dimensions of life – as Bonnefoy puts it, an imaginary is all the figments of imagination on which literature flows (Bonnefoy 103). It is also, on the other hand, an assessment of the unknown by superimposing upon it one’s personal set of representations, fascinations, underlying ideological prisms, in a way that both prevents from looking at the world the way it is and helps to develop an idiosyncratic relation with it (Houdebine), even turning it into a piece of art when it comes to a poet.

I will first look at a few of his depictions of French landscapes, both before and during the War, then I will focus on his sparse use of French words in his poems, which tends to reveal the marginal presence of France proper. I will finally try to show how the variations of the sonnet form in his work relate more to an English tradition than to French poetry.

French Landscapes: between allegory and realism, a myopic perspective

The most obvious influence of France on Owen’s poetry is the presence of French landscapes, from the relatively happy days before the War when he lived in the South-West of France to the Northern forests and mud of the Western Front.

He repeatedly offered realistic depictions of the French countryside. “From my diary, July 1914” for instance contains some pretty allusive references to a characterisation of the Pyrenees – set between “upland” and the “peak” of the Pyrénées, the scorching July “heat” is definitely French. However, Owen reduces his experience to fragments and flashes, and who is to say boys jumping in an “ebony pond” are specifically French? This myopia – or short-sightedness – is characteristic of Owen’s talent: he depicts war and the world through a highly subjective and narrowly focused lens. And this, as we will see later, tends to lead him to inscribe his realistic depictions in the expression of a universal experience, thus revealing his rather loose attachment to the world. Besides, the poet writes with England in mind and ear, and thus spells “Pyrenees” in English – which here rhymes with “trees”.

Later on, during the War, he offers depictions of the French frontline, although quite imprecise and without much reference to France per se, as for instance in “The Sentry” and “Miners”. The former focuses on an “old Boche dug-out” that gets filled with the ever-present mud, in a vivid depiction of the living conditions on the frontline: “mud”, “clay”, “murk of air”, “slush”, “waterfalls of slime”, etc., all tend to evoke a sort of liquid hell, full of “fumes of whizz-bangs” and the “curse” of enemies who have been rotting too long in their underground “den”. Although the rendering is realistic, there is little recognizable as France. The war here rather becomes its own country of elemental tortures, far from Sassoon’s “radiant forests” in his heavenly “France” (Sassoon 4). Owen thus composes an amazing poem rooted in an English situation (written in Scarborough, early in 1918) and moving towards the landscape of the trenches: the initial domestic setting leaves room for reminiscences and fantasies of the war, all coming through the allegory of mining. Once again, the frontline appears as its own primal, partly underground, country. Neither of these poems, which start in rather realistic situations, actually refers to anything specifically French, and they show the war to be its own country, one of elemental dystopia and human nightmare.

There is a tendency, in Owen’s poetry, to turn what could be realistic depictions into allegorical or mythic landscapes.

One of its most striking examples is the sonnet “Hospital Barge at Cérisy” [sic]: the depiction of a French village on the banks of the Somme, a dozen kilometers from Quivières (whose name is incorrectly spelt, since it probably is “Cerisy”, without an accent this time) gives way to a Celtic imagery, or rather imaginary for there is little image and only nominal abstraction. Marc D. Cyr notes the probable influence of Tennyson (Cyr, 1994, 6). The longing could also be associated with the Welsh hiraeth, a Celtic equivalent of Portuguese’s famous saudade, as it evokes both homesickness and a yearning for what is out of reach – the past, the dead, the dream, the end of strife, etc. The realistic “sluggard ripples of the Somme” and sound of “engines” of the first lines move into “fairy tinkling” as the octave of the sonnet progresses, before any kind of grounded gaze upon the world leaves place, at the end of the sestet, to a dream of “Avalon” or the Fortunate Isles, that is to say, myth. This mythical imaginary is rooted in English poetry and culture, for in a May 1917 letter to his mother (Owen 1967, 457), in which he talks about his going down the Somme on a barge alongside a wounded soldier, he uses passages of The Faerie Queen to describe his peculiar experience.

 Furthermore, it is to be noted that in that very letter, the evocation of Arthuriana ends on the threat of the “Saxon”, with the real-life Owen using the common, jingoistic lexicon of the time: different situations of writing lead him to draw from different linguistic imaginaries, quite expectedly so for a poet who tries to make sense of the immediate war context. Here, the poet’s sight is not myopic anymore but rather focused on a far-flung target, one that stems from his mind rather than from the actual world.

In “At a Calvary near the Ancre”, the only indication of an actual scenery lies in the title with the mention of the French stream that flows near Albert. It then disappears from the body of the poem. If the calvary is a specific landmark of rural Catholic France, its depiction quickly blurs the limit between the representation of Jesus’s end and the surrounding landscape, itself a vanishing presence. The first stanza evokes “shelled roads” that refer to First World War landscapes without evoking anything particularly French, unless one considers again – not unjustifiably – that the war constitutes its own country and that the British troops sent to the front cannot possibly experience any part of France as much as they do this hellish place. The poem’s second stanza shifts towards a more allegorical landscape, with biblical Golgotha along which “stroll many a priest”, a quite unlikely sight in 1918-Jerusalem, thus showing how Owen systematically strays from what he sees in order to link it to a wider perspective. The final evocation of “soldiers” can refer to the Roman legionaries guarding Jesus’s last ordeals as much as Owen’s companions: the way the poet weaves his poem makes it necessary for the concrete world around him to be superimposed with a timeless meditation, that turns out to be quite the opposite of realism here.

The “Ancre”, on the banks of which two battles took place in 1916 (October and November), is therefore just a French word in the title. France here is just some kind of geographical notation as in a letter or a diary, not an actual landscape. It is the scene of rêverie, not its object as the Somme might have somehow been.

 “Spring Offensive” also provides an unreal depiction of a war landscape, where violence is systematically attributed to an elemental force – sky or earth. Since the title may yield two different meanings, either an attack led in spring, or the season itself attacking, this presentation of nature as the enemy is no surprise. Owen grew increasingly disenchanted with patriotism and the very idea of good sides, hence this blurring of the human dimension of killing: it is the war, not soldiers, that kills. It is probably important to link this abstraction of war with his own growing implication in killing, such as his daring, or desperate, part in a killing spree on October 1st, 1918 that led him to be awarded the Military Cross.

French words, French imaginary?

While he studied French at school and college in Reading, Owen grew acquainted with French literature mostly as an autodidact: he writes about reading in French in 1911, while in Torquay (translating an excerpt from Daudet to his mother). When the First World War breaks out, Owen is trying to make a living in Bordeaux. In a postcard to his mother, dated September 30th, he writes about studying French literature, with no further detail (Owen 1967, 286). It is interesting to see how this most Francophile of all the War Poets uses French words, and overall French language, throughout his work, as he steers between superficiality and interlingual dialogism.

A conclusive grasp – if not mastery – of French within a poetical context comes when Owen mimics the British soldiers’ poor grasp of French as he addresses the issue of verbal communication with his fellow fighters. In a note added to the first seventeen lines of what would be his last poem, “Spring Offensive” (begun in Scarborough in July 1918 and revised in France in September), he asks Sassoon (who received the lines on September 22nd):

Is this worth going on with? I don’t want to write anything to which a soldier would say No Compris! (Owen 1983, 193)

Less poetically, he peppered his letters with French words or sentences: “Adieu mon petit. Je t’embrasse” (Owen 1967, 446), or, earlier, like in 1912 when he distinguishes reading “à bas” and “à haute voix” (Owen 1967, 161) while “à voix basse” would be the correct French formulation.

A specific focus on his poetry does not belie this general picture of a rather loose relation to France. Some poems just have a French title: “Le Christianisme” and “À Terre” are both vivid pictures of life – and death – in the North of France. In the former, the “Virgin still immaculate”, a probable statuette or icon still standing in the rubble of a church in “Le Christianisme” is typically Catholic, if not specifically French. However, in the specific context of British troops engaged in the First World War, the imaginary this poem builds does gesture towards France, if only merely with its title – a minimalism that fits the brevity of the eight-line poem. More important is the fact that this effigy too is doomed to hell, which shows how strongly the poem tends towards the metaphysical rather than the documentary.

As for the other poem, “À Terre”, it does not reflect much on anything French, rather on an English soldier’s expression (“pushing up daisies”) and a line by Shelley. Besides, while its title does sound standard French, meaning both “downtrodden” and “having thrown oneself to the ground”, it seems that the most fitting French wording to define what the poem puts forth may rather be “En terre”, as in “Buried in/under the ground”. Indeed, the speaker’s state is one of near-death, explicitly in the second stanza and in the sixth on. Furthermore, most of the moments when the speaker dreams of being “à terre”, downtrodden or humiliated, it is in a dialectic relation with a death impulse, one of being “en terre”. The speaker’s dreams of social humbling in the fifth stanza come from the comparison of being a lower-class worker or simply dead, while his ironically literal take on Shelley leads to the post-mortem dissolution of the material self. Not only has “À Terre” very little to do with France and everything with the English language, its French title is actually misleading.

Owen’s most famous use of French, or French-related words, are probably to be found in his Sonnet, “On Seeing a Piece of Our Artillery Brought Into Action”:

 Yet, for men's sakes whom thy vast malison
 Must wither innocent of enmity (vv 9-10) 

Here, “malison”, for “curse”, comes from old French (where it is a variant of maleiçon), while “imprecations” in the first stanza stems from Latin and is similar to its French cognate, which is rather more common in literary French (with which Owen grew familiar thanks to his friendship with the great imprécateur Laurent Tailhade) than in English.[1]

However, this praise of the cannon in sophisticated, French-sounding English is but a decoy for the final cursing he directs at war. French thus becomes an element of irony, such as the pastiche of Biblical speech and the use of archaisms. It should be noted that the last line,

May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

not only is a shining example of a ten-words pentameter, but also one where every single word comes from Middle or Old English, and then from Proto-Germanic languages, without a single Latin influence. Nothing patriotic there, naturally; this difference only emphasizes the abrupt fall of long-worded, crafted pentameters into this clanging, crude final curse.[2] It seems nonetheless noteworthy that from a French-shaped presentation, the curse turns out to be absolutely not French as it erupts in a most English way.

            The hypothesis of every supposed French imaginary being actually erased under a British imaginary thus seems more acceptable. Any direct influence of French poetry can be equally disputed: for instance, when Dominic Hibberd perceives Verlaine’s influence in « On a Dream » (Hibberd 41). If Owen has actually transcribed « Mon rêve familier », it may be the general tonality that might be reminiscent of Verlaine, for direct imitation is definitely not obvious:

On a Dream     I leaned, blank-eyed, in lonely thoughtless thought, Upon the night, athwart my threshold stone; When there came One with hurried, frightened moan, With tear-drained eyes, wild hair, and hands distraught, Who fell about my knees, and swift besought Help and my love, for she was all alone For love of me; and from her world out-thrown. I knew that lovely head; her hands I caught;   For hours I felt her lips warm on my cheek, As through the vast void of the dark we fled. For precious hours her limbs in mine were curled, Until with utter joy I tried to speak: And lo! I raved with fever on my bed, And melancholy dawn bestirred the world.My familiar dream     I often have this strange and absorbing dream Of an unknown woman, whom I love and who loves me And who each time is neither exactly the same Nor quite another, and who loves and understands me.   For she understands me and my heart, crystal-clear For her only, alas! ceases to cause trouble For her only and my brow’s moist fevers Only she knows how to balm with her tears.   Is her hair brown, blonde or red? I do not know. What about her name? I only recall it to be soft and sonorous, Like those of the beloved ones Life has cast away.   Her gaze is like the gaze of statues; As for her voice, remote and calm and low, it has The lilt of dearest voices that fell silent.

It is hard to notice any kind of direct correspondence here – I have translated Verlaine’s sonnet, if clumsily, rather literally in order to highlight how little and vaguely Owen borrows from the French. The only rough equivalent I have been able to notice is the solitary woman’s tears (doubly underlined here), although they are set in two totally distinct systems of sadness: the woman in Owen’s sonnet comes dishevelled in a dream to seek solace on his side, while Verlaine’s speaker is the one who wishes for the oneiric comfort this polar opposite of a woman, soothing and motherly, could bring. In Owen’s sonnet, her loneliness makes her need a man, while in Verlaine’s it is he who erects her as a lonely, Platonic lover figure he is desperately in need of. It might be true that both evoke a dream revelatory of a lonely, masculine existence; this similarity, present in so many poems haunted by dreams, somehow falls short of demonstrating a concrete translingual influence.

One could arguably see Owen’s attempt at speech, bringing the feverish realization that the visit was but a dream, as inspired by different moments at the end of Verlaine’s octave and sestet, although there is no such consequential, Orpheus-inspired logic in the French sonnet.

Besides the differing stanzas layout, the rhyming pattern also differs from one sonnet to the other, Verlaine’s being distinctly French:

  • Owen’s “On a Dream”:                       ABBAABBA CDECDE
  • Verlaine “Mon Rêve familier”            ABBA  ABBA  CCDEDE

The French sonnet originates from the mid-16th century, around the time of Surrey and of the first appearances of what will become the Elizabethan sonnet: it is one where the sestet starts with a distich. French studies quite commonly distinguish between two varieties of French sonnet: when the sestet ends with enclosed rhymes, it is named à la Marot (from the probable introducer of the form in French) and when it ends with crossed rhymes, it is à la Peletier, from Peletier du Mans, mentor and companion of the Pléiade poets and the first to consistently propose this scheme.

This specific sonnet is quite often overlooked by Anglophone criticism, or roughly categorized as continental or Italian, even though this feature is thoroughly avoided by Petrarch and the Italians, as noticed by Jacques Roubaud (Roubaud) or John Fuller (Fuller 3-4). Owen may not have been familiar with these subtle pattern characteristics of the sonnet, although one may assume that a poet is generally aware of the effects of the rhyme. I have here tried to assess precisely whether his rhyme schemes prove any kind of influence from the French form.

A rhyme scheme recension: the prevalence of the Elizabethan sonnet

TYPO-GRAPHY  Rhyme SchemeSonnet TITLE (date & place, according to Jon Stallworthy)
Elizabethan  ABAB CDCD EFEF GGMy Shy Hand (drafted Craiglockhart, revised Scarborough)
Italian, French or otherABBAABBACCDEED   ABABCDCD  EEFGGF ABBAABBA  EFEFGG     ABBAABBA CDDCEE ABBAABBA  CDECDE   ABBAABBA  EFGEFG ABBACDDC EFGEFG ABBACDDC  EFEFGG   ABBA  CDDC  EFGEFG   ABBA CDDC EFEFGG ABBAACCA  EFEFAA ABABCACA EEFFGG   ABABACCA  EFEFEF ABABACAC EFEFGG ABABCDCD EFEFGG     ABABCDCD EFFEGG ABABCDCD EFEFFE ABAB  CDCD  EFEFGG     AABBCCDDEFGEFG AABBCCDD  EFGEFG   ABBACDDC EEFFGG ABAB  CDCD  EEFFGGThe Sleeping Beauty (Bagnères-de-Bigorre, August-Oct 1914 – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) Happiness (Abbeville, Feb 1917- revised Craiglockhart) A New Heaven (September 1916); Sonnet (On Seeing a Piece of Our Artillery Brought into Action) (begun July 1917? revised Scarborough May 1918) 1914 (France, late 1914? – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) Hospital Barge at Cérisy (December 1917) ; Perversity (?- revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough); On a dream (?- revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) Autumnal (?- revised Craiglockhart) The Next War (late 1917 – revised July 1918); Purple (?, September 1916 – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) The Unreturning (draft late 1912/early 13 –revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough, end 1917/early 18) Storm (October 1916) To – (London, 10 May 1916 – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) Maundy Thursday (Shrewsbury, 1915? from a recollection from Mérignac, 1914? – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) “The city lights along the waterside…” (?- revised Craiglockhart); How do I love thee? (May 1917?) The Peril of Love (?- revised Craiglockhart); Sonnet (To a Child) (December? 1917 at Craiglockhart) ; The Fates (Craiglockhart, 31 June/1st July 1917) Anthem for Doomed Youth (September 1917 at Craiglockhart) On my songs (Dunsden, 4 January 1913 – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) To Eros (after May 1916); Music (October 1916- revised Craiglockhart); To my Friend (with an Identity Disc) (23 March 1917- revised Craiglockhart) The Poet in Pain (? – revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough) “Whither is passed the softly-vanished day?” (Shrewsbury 1911-12? –rev. Craiglockhart/Scarb.) The One Remains (?- revised Craiglockhart October-November 1917) The End (begun late 1916? revised Craiglockhart/Scarborough)  
DUBIOUSABABCDCD EFEFGG   ABABCDCD  EFEFGE GE  HIHIJKJKLMLM   7+7 4+4+8some stanzas of the ode “Uriconium”   Dulce et Decorum Est (October 1917 at Craiglockhart – revised Scarborough 1918/Ripon March-1918)     Futility (Ripon, May 1918) Inspection (Craiglockhart 1917)

The first column addresses the typographical disposition, as common during Owen’s life – with different stanzas separated by a blank line.

I have underlined the occurrences of a final Elizabethan distich and doubly underlined those of a French sestet. The comparison reveals the overwhelming presence of the English distich, compared to the French one. There are five of the latter, if only two corresponding to a common French pattern (“The Sleeping Beauty” and “Happiness”, which mixes an Elizabethan octave with a French sestet), as the succession of distiches is neither common nor much sought out throughout the history of the French form. This rare appearance of a clear French, Marot-style sonnet is quite striking and may lead to a new hypothesis: as “The Sleeping Beauty” was written during the earliest stages of the war, while Owen was still living in the South-West of France, he may somehow have been influenced by his readings and the language he was hearing all day long.

So the poet quite likely knew about the French form, and – one may assume – chose not to use it after 1914. The reasons I could propose for such a tiny, though not insignificant, renouncement, could be either a desire for formal diversity or Owen’s return to an English frame of mind, corresponding with his enrolment in the Artists’ Rifles. His return into English society and his defence of patriotism would then be manifest through an adherence to the English sonnet formal canon, or at least its major defining feature: the final distich.

This allegiance, unsurprising on Owen’s part, is not straightforward. Not only does the poet considerably vary his rhyme schemes – 24 out of 31 indisputable sonnets – but he also tries unconventional, if not experimental, formal varieties, such as “Futility” or, famously and arguably, “Dulce et Decorum Est”. Within all this diversity, the poet lets only one in twenty undisputable sonnets espouse the canonical Elizabethan form, both in terms of rhyme (three quatrains of different crossed rhymes followed by a final distich) and typography: “My shy hand”. Seven others follow the Elizabethan rhyme scheme, although not its formal layout on the page, four (“When late I viewed the gardens of rich men…”, “The Peril of Love”, “Sonnet (To a Child)”, “The Fates”) divided between octave and sestet and three (“To Eros”, “Music”, “To my Friend (with an Identity Disc)”) between quatrains and sestet. “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, one of Owen’s most noteworthy sonnets, comes very close to an Elizabethan structure (with a third quatrain of enclosed rhymes).

All in all, the Elizabethan final distich permeates the rhyme structure of a majority of his sonnets: 19 out of 31 clear sonnets. It is as though, by renouncing to set the last distich apart, Owen was trying not to appear visibly English, while two thirds of his sonnets still end with this specific feature of English poetry. For all his complex relationship with his native land, Owen still dies under its colours and still writes using its forms, to which he pays homage in his Shakespeare-influenced sonnet “How do I love thee” – obviously ending on an Elizabethan distich.

Though the hermeneutics of form are always tricky, especially when it comes to systematising an interpretation, I will nonetheless propose an interpretation of this feature of the sonnet. I have wondered whether Owen drew on the sententious tone that this English specificity usually conveys in order to better achieve obvious conclusions to his sonnets. This rather subjective assessment has led me to believe that six sonnets (“1914”, “Storm”, “To my Friend (with an Identity Disc)”, “The End”, arguably “The Peril of Love” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth”) out of nineteen do use the final distich in some kind of funereal, epitaph-like closing sentence. This proportion is not insignificant and tends to reveal Owen’s poetic inspirations, from “England one by one had fled to France” to be buried “under France” (words from “Smile, smile, smile”). Yet, at the same time, this relatively small number tends to confirm the variety of Owen’s aesthetics, leading to love (many final distiches are devoted to love) and in the end, to life.


In a ground-breaking paper, Peter Howarth shows that the War Poets’ pretention to realism does not mean they do not use classical forms, nor experiment with rhythm and form in a sometimes conspicuous way. The critic, as a keen student of the meaning of form, underlines how it was considered as a reflection of a cosmological order: “what we see in much First World War verse is the struggle of older forms with a reality that cannot be ‘contained’ by them, and with which twentieth-century poetics spent much of its time trying to catch up” (Howarth 53).

This stimulating assertion would need to be discussed within a broader frame of reflection about the sonnet, as in the 19th century the form was adapted to a new world and thought order, from Wordsworth and Shelley in England to Baudelaire and Verlaine in France. Nevertheless, Howarth is probably right about Wilfred Owen: as I have tried to suggest here, Owen’s use of the sonnet both reflects the disordered, un-conventional world of War, which turns out to take place in France, and it inserts itself in a heritage that is mostly British – in layout and sounds – and has little to do with France.

Thus, the proto-modernist Owen is, from a British perspective, all but an orphan – here is a poet who discusses overtly with Keats and Shelley, who mentions Shakespeare and Spenser and who is influenced by Yeats and Tennyson. He might have something of the exile, though, or even of the orphelin of French literature, an orphelin in the adopted land where he was bound to die: long unable to either abundantly draw from it, or be fully recognized there – a fact I hope this volume will help to change.

Works cited

Bonnefoy, Yves. L’autre langue à portée de voix. Paris, Seuil, 2013.

Cyr, Marc D. “Formal Subversion in Wilfred Owen’s ‘Hospital Barge’ ”, Style 28.1 (Spring 1994), 6.

Fuller, John. The Sonnet. London, Methuen, 1980.

Hibberd, Dominic. Owen the Poet. Athens (Georgia), The University of Georgia Press, 1986.

Howarth, Peter. “Poetic Form and the First World War”, The Cambridge Companion to the Poetry of the First World War. Santanu Das ed., New York, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp 51-65.

Houbedine, Anne-Marie (dir.). L’Imaginaire linguistique. Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002.

Knowles, Owen. « Introduction », Owen, Wilfred. The Poems of Wilfred Owen. Ware, Wordsworth Classics, 1994.

Owen, Wilfred. Collected Letters. London, Oxford University Press, 1967.

– – – The Complete Poems and Fragments. London, Chatto & Windus, the Hogarth Press, Oxford University Press, 1983.

Roubaud, Jacques. Quasi-cristaux, « Description du sonnet français, 1801-1998 ». Paris, Martine Aboucaya et Yvon Lambert, 2013.

Sassoon, Siegfried. The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon. Mineola (NY), Dover, 2004.

Verlaine, Paul. Poèmes Saturniens (1866), in Fêtes Galantes, Romances sans paroles, précédé de Poèmes Saturniens. Paris, Gallimard, 2010 (my translation).

[1] Owen uses a similar French-inspired world with “orisons” in “Anthem for a Doomed Youth”, with the same aim of distancing its poetry from the lauding register.

[2] One will find in this issue a paper by Gilles Couderc, containing a more detailed list of the apparitions, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, of words or wordings influenced or inspired by the French language.

Thomas Vuong is an Associate Researcher at Université Sorbonne – Paris-Nord, Pléiade. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature. He studied how the sonnet form functions as a major touchstone for poetics and the function of poetry in Western Europe, during the Second World War. His other sonnet-related fields of investigation are XXth-century poetry in France, England and Italy or in Black American poetry. He has also published papers in Translation Studies, especially about Petrarch’s influence or about the concept of imaginaries of translation.