Anthem for Doomed Youth

Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Summary of Anthem for Doomed Youth:

  • Popularity of “Anthem for Doomed Youth”: Wilfred Owen, a well-known British poet wrote this poem. It is one of the tragic sonnets also known as a funeral dedication for soldiers in the First World War. It was first published in 1917. The poem speaks about the death of soldiers either in the Battle of Somme or Passchendaele. It explains how the soldiers die helplessly on the battlefield. They do not have anyone to give them proper burial after their sacrifice. One of the notable aspects of the poem is the poet’s rejection of God and religion after seeing suffering around him.
  • “Anthem for Doomed Youth” As a Representative of Death: The poem presents the speaker’s sadness and agony on the loss of lives during the war. The poem begins with the awful deaths of the soldiers. The poet sadly states nobody rings the bells for those who die like cattle on the battlefield. They never receive any formal ceremonies to honor their death. Instead, both sides of soldiers receive anger of the guns and rifles. Although they fight tirelessly, they get no mourning sounds and cremation. They are brutally shot and killed. The poet expresses his agony as he recalls that nobody lights up the candles for their memorial. Only girls with their pale faces who could be their mother, girlfriend, or close kin put flowers.
  • Major Themes in “Anthem for Doomed Youth”: Horrors of war, death, and suffering are the major themes of this poem. The poet paints a realistic picture of the battleground. The readers must realize how soldiers sacrifice their lives to defend their country, but the civilians honor their deaths. They are killed like animals during the wars. Usually, at funerals for the dead, the bells ring, and prayers are offered. However, the soldiers do not have that privilege. Instead of bells and prayers, sounds of guns, fires, and shells are heard after their death. Their families can only cry on the news of their death.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Anthem for Doomed Youth”

Literary devices are tools used by writers and poets to convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Wilfred Owen has also employed some literary devices in this poem to express his ideas. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /o/ in “No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells” and “Only the monstrous anger of the guns.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /l/ in “The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /r/ in “Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”; the sound of /d/ “And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds” and the sound of /g/ in “Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues to the next line. For example,

 “Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle”; “Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes” and “Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.”
  2. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a statement said or asked to make the point clear without expecting any answers. For example, “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?” and “What candles may be held to speed them all?”
  3. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare an object or a person with something else to make the meanings clear. There is one simile used in the opening lines of this poem. For example, “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle.” Here, the poet compares dead soldiers to cattle.
  4. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to non-living objects. For example, guns are personified in the second line of the poem, “only the monstrous anger of the guns,” as if the guns are humans that can express anger.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Anthem for Doomed Youth”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Sonnet: A sonnet is a fourteen lined poem. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” is a Petrarchan sonnet made up of one octave and one sestet.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme followed by the poem is ABAB CDCD EFFE GG.
  3. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “cattle/rattle”, “all/pall” and “minds/blinds.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines can be used to express sadness and anger who die an unnatural death or become a victim of terrorism.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”