First World War Poetry Digital Archive

‘Unto what pinnacles of desperate heights . . .’

  Unto what pinnacles of desperate heights   Do good men climb to seize their good!   What abnegation to all mortal joys,   What vast abstraction from the world is theirs!   O what insane abuses, desperate pangs,   Annihilations of the Self, soul-suicides,   They wreak upon themselves to purchase---God!   A God to guide through these poor temporal days   Their comings, goings, workings of the heart,   Obsess, indeed, their natures utterly;   Meanwhile preparing, as in recompense,   Mansions celestial for their timeless bliss.   And to what end this Holiness; this God   That arrogates their intellect and soul?   To none! Their offered lives are not so grand,   So active, or so sweet as many a one's   That is undedicate, being reason-swayed;   And their sole mission is to drag, entice   And push mankind to those same cloudy crags   Where they first breathed the madness-giving air   That made them feel as angels, that are less than men.


“‘Unto what pinnacles of desperate heights . . .’,” 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 May 24, 2024,

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