“Sonnet: on seeing a piece of heavy artillery brought into action.”

A piece of heavy artillery that was transported on railroad tracks.

You can read the full poem here.

This poem was revised during May 1918, quite late in the war. It may have be written earlier. Heavy artillery is the name given to a range of different weapons that could not be held by individual soldiers, like rifles and grenades. They could be moved from place to place by horses, but they were heavy and clumsy.

The howitzer, which was a common piece of heavy artillery.


  • Imprecations: curses
  • malison: a curse
  • enmity: hatred, ill will, animosity
  • spoilure: the best answer I can find for this is: ”
    • ‘spoilure’ is a strange coinage. Owen has created the noun (perhaps as a shorter version of the word ‘spoliation’, for the sake of scansion) to suggest damage done by the gun’ (from this site).


  • Diction – Anachronisms: (words that are no longer in use)
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor
  • Alliteration
  • Personification

Guiding Questions

  • Why does Owen use words like thou, thy, and thee?
  • How and why has Owen used sound devices through the poem?
  • What is the persona’s attitude towards the artillery? (i.e. what is the tone of the poem?)
  • Here we can see a recurring theme in Owen’s poetry – the combination of war and religion. Why do you think Owen has combined the two again in this poem about heavy artillery?