Wilfred Owen wrote Apologia Pro Poemate Meo in response to a letter regarding the pessimistic nature of his poetry. On its surface, the poem celebrates the comradeship, and determination of the soldiers who fought, but on a deeper level, Owen tries to express his inner feelings towards the war.
On 31 October 1918, Owen wrote to his mother. In this letter he said, "Of this I am certain, you could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here." These words would be the last Owen ever wrote to his mother as he was killed shortly after writing it, but the letter does convey the sense that the one thing that the war could not destroy was the relationships the soldiers built with each other, and as a body, united. The poem centers on comradeship, but also attacks, rather bitterly those who are not fighting.
The poem seems to be more optimistic that most of Owens poetry, though whether this optimism is well founded is not clear. However, the rhyme scheme, regular stanzas and rhythm seem to lift the poem above the darkness that characterises much of Owens poetry. The poem is, for lack of a better phrase, easier to read than much of his work, and as a result of this, we are given a sense of optimism. The regular alternating couplet rhyme scheme gives the words a smoothness, which may suggest truth. However, the words also seem somewhat forced.
When Owen writes, I, too, saw God through mud it seems that he is using the pronoun to make the poem seem more personal. However, many of Owens other poems, such as The Sentry and Dulce Et Decorum Est adopt similar techniques, and unlike them, this poem seems to not be rooted in detailed personal experience. This suggests that Owen is making a conscious effort to write an optimistic poem, even though he does not have experience to write of, first-hand. The repetition of I, too suggests that Owen is anxious to establish the fact that he witnessed the events which he is describing , and one must ask that had he done so, would he feel the need to reinstate the fact so many times.
Dulce Et Decorum Est was originally called, For Jessie Pope, and protested against the idea that war is glorious, calling the ancient phrase, The old lie. Why then, in this poem does Owen write that, War brought more glory to their eyes than blood? Glory is certainly not a word often found in Owens poetry and in the next stanza we see yet more uncharacteristic language, as Owen writes that, Merry it was to laugh there. This line, coming shortly after And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child. Is scarily similar to Jessie Popes references to war being a game. Knowing how opposed own was to such works, can we really trust Owens words here? Gone is the pity in his poetry, which Owen describes in the foreword to his collection. To talk of pride in slashing bones bare and not to feel remorse or sickness may be poetry but it doesn't sound much like pity.
On the 18th February 1917, Owen wrote a letter home in which he said, It is a good thing no photographs can be taken by night. If they could they would not appear in the Daily Mirror which I see still depicts the radiant smiles of Tommies. Apologia Pro Poemate Meo seems to be made up of paradoxes, sets of contradictions. However from these contradictions, truths seem to occasionally peek out from apparent falsities. The entanglement where hopes lay strewn and the foul nature of Owens subject matter are all more in keeping with his previous work. Owen writes that comrades' faces could be "seraphic for an hour", but this does not imply even a whole day.
However, when we finish the poem, it is not the comradeship of the soldiers that we remember, it is Owens bitter conclusion: "These men are worth your tears, you are not worth their merriment" We remember Owens biting attack on the non-combatants, and I think this is what he intended. The suggestion that he should write more optimistically may have angered Owen, and by writing a poem that is on the surface optimistic, yet still a biting attack on those who do not fight, and who throw away mens lives, Owen effectively responds to those letters with sharp wit. Whether Owen means what he writes about the Exultation of battle in this poem, he has recorded elsewhere his experiences of exhilaration, of his "spirit surging light and clear" and so we are more inclined to remember instead his biting attack.