Posted by: rogermitchell | November 11, 2009

A terrible day

Today is the terrible day that we British celebrate the passage of our children through the fire. On the first armistice day, November 11th 1918, Wilfrid Owen’s Mum and Dad received the new’s of their son’s death one week earlier. While convalescing from war wounds at Scarborough the previous July before returning to the front he penned the following prophetic poem:


So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,

And took the fire with him, and a knife.

And as they sojourned both of them together,

Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,

Behold the preparations, fire and iron,

But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?

Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,

And builded parapets and trenches there,

And stretchêd forth the knife to slay his son.

When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,

Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,

Neither do anything to him, thy son.

Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,

A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.


But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

[From Jon Stallworthy ed: The War Poems of Wilfrid Owen (London, Chatto and Windus 1994)]

In the Genesis story on which this poem is based Abraham discovered that God does not require the passage of children through fire in order to defend humanity from demonic power.  He provides himself. We, the children of Abraham, as Paul describes Christ’s body, have not learnt this lesson. Instead we affirm and even facilitate the release of demonic power against our enemies by the sacrifice of our children and call it necessary and go on accessing it and call it remembrance. What hope the West?



  1. Oh Roger, this is almost unspeakable. But we must speak and grieve and not be silent.

    I have an anthology of these poems (little they are not)…and this is the most tragic, demonstrating a profound understanding of it all.

    I was reading it last week – and wept. And the hope must be in our Father who lovingly intervenes with newness when we are at our worst…

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