The poem "The Owl" by British Poet Edward Thomas deals with the after effects of a soldier escaping the horrors of the front lines of war, with his life. However, many of his fellow soldiers have not escaped. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice – giving their lives for their fellow brothers-in-arms who could escape, and also giving their lives for their country and fellow citizens.
The solider who is the narrator of this poem talks of a ‘blessed tiredness’ so-to-speak. He is tired from battle, but the rest he can now partake of is to him “…the sweetest thing under a roof.”
This soldier is cold and hungry but he has persevered somehow. Nonetheless, there is a cost to his surviving in that mental anguish over the fate of his compatriots is something that will eat at him for the rest of his life. He now enjoys creature comforts at an inn and all seems well; he has survived; he can make plans for the future, hopefully a brighter one for him and for all.
What catches his attention is the lamenting cry of a lone owl. It is as if the owl is speaking directly to him. It is a direct cry to this soldier, “long and clear upon the hill.” The owl is letting him know that he is one of the fortunate ones in the theatre of war. He escaped when other could not. This soldier has loved ones and a previous lifestyle to return to. The soldiers who died have left this all behind and their blood soaks gruesome battlefields.
The owl’s cry has awaken him to the reality of his situation. He is a survivor and can rejoice somewhat that his life carries on, albeit significantly changed. The plaintive cry from the owl reminds him that many soldiers cannot express joy now, nor can their loved ones.