The first 14 lines can be read as a [3sonnet3) although they do not end with a rhyming couplet, and instead the ab ab rhyme-scheme carries on into the separate pair of lines which constitute the third stanza.
Whilst the initial fourteen lines depict the situation and the events which take place, the last fourteen lines show the consequences of what has happened and Owen’s reflection on it.
Owen also draws the reader’s attention to the key actions and themes of the poem by his use of repeated short, single words: uses the past tense to describe the plodding retreat from the battle field, as the men ‘marched’ and ‘turned’ and ‘went’.
In stanza two Owen moves the action first into the present continuous, demonstrating the immediacy of action – the men are ‘fumbling’, ‘fitting’.
Even though the third and fourth lines might seem to be positive, the ‘rest’ towards which they ‘trudge’ is ‘distant’.
These negative words counter any sense of hope and joy at the prospect of moving away from the front and the ‘haunting flares’.
Then he moves into the past continuous: someone ‘ ..
drowning.’ This indicates the passage of time, yet how the sight is still very real to Owen.
The way in which he addresses as ‘My friend’ those with whom he so strongly disagrees is ironic.
The poem consists of four stanzas of various lengths.