First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Unreturning

THE UNRETURNING by WILFRED OWEN Suddenly night crushed out the day and hurled Her remnants over cloud-peaks, thunder-walled. Then fell a stillness such as harks appalled When far-gone dead return upon the world. There watched I for the Dead; but no ghost woke. Each one whom Life exiled I named and called. But they were all too far, or dumbed, or thralled, And never one fared back to me or spoke. Then peered the indefinite unshapen dawn With vacant gloaming, sad as half-lit minds, The weak-limned hour when sick men's sighs are drained. And while I wondered on their being withdrawn, Gagged by the smothering Wing which none unbinds, I dreaded even a heaven with doors so chained.


“The Unreturning,” by Owen, Wilfred (1893-1918). The Estate of Wilfred Owen. The Complete Poems and Fragments of Wilfred Owen edited by Jon Stallworthy first published by Chatto & Windus, 1983. Preliminaries, introductory, editorial matter, manuscripts and fragments omitted. via First World War Poetry Digital Archive, accessed June 4, 2020,

Permitted Use

This item is available for non-commercial educational use under the terms of the Jisc Model Licence. Further details available at: