The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

You can read the full poem here and you can listen to it here.

Painting of the story of Abraham and Isaac.


In order to fully understand this poem, it is important that you first know the biblical story of Abram and his son Isaac.

It is also important that you read the original from the bible, as Owen’s poem follows this wording quite closely. But there is one important difference between the biblical story and Owen’s.

After you know the story, you will be able to have a better understanding of what is happening in the poem.


  • Parable: a story that uses humans to deliver some sort of moral or religious lesson; it’s a type of analogy.
  • clave: archaic term for to cleave. To cleave means to cut or split.
  • sojourn: to stay somewhere temporarily
  • spake: spoke
  • parapets: sandbags on the edge of a trench to protect soldiers
  • slay: kill violently
  • thicket: a thick group of bushes or trees

Guiding Questions

  • What is the religious lesson behind the parable of Abraham and Isaac?
  • Who is the “Old Man” and who is the “Young” that Owen is referring to in his poem?
  • How does Owen change the ending of the story from the biblical version? What is the significance of this?
  • What similarities is Owen trying to draw our attention to between the war and the biblical story?
  • Can you find connections between Owen’s attitude towards religion in this poem and any of his others?