Put out the lights now! Look at the Tree, the rough tree dazzled In oriole plumes of flame, Tinselled with twinkling frost fire, tasselled With stars and moons—the same That yesterday hid in the spinney and had no fame Till we put out the lights now.
Hard are the nights now: The fields at moonrise turn to agate, Shadows are cold as jet; In dyke and furrow, in copse and faggot The frost’s tooth is set; And stars are the sparks whirled out by the north wind’s fret On the flinty nights now.
So feast your eyes now On mimic star and moon-cold bauble; Worlds may wither unseen, But the Christmas Tree is a tree of fable, A phoenix in evergreen, And the world cannot change or chill what its mysteries mean To your hearts and eyes now.
The vision dies now Candle by candle: the tree that embraced it Returns to its own kind, To be earthed again and weather as best it May the frost and the wind. Children, it too had its hour—you will not mind If it lives or dies now.
His fame was posthumous – he had only four poems published in his lifetime. The bulk of his best work was written or finished during a period of intense creative activity, from August 1917 (in one week of October he wrote six poems) to September 1918 – a period comparable with the annus mirabilis of his admired Keats. The originality and force of their language, the passionate nature of the indignation and pity they express, their blending of harsh realism with a sensuousness unatrophied by the horrors from which they flowered, all these make me feel that Owen’s war poems are mature poetry, and that in the best of them – as in a few which he wrote on other subjects – he showed himself a major poet.