Anthem For Doomed Youth

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 good-byes.
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.

by Wilfred Owen

Comments (38)

Had always heard mention of this poet. But actually reading his poems. Blows me away.
this is so sad but true! !
As true now as it was then hint hint ...... hint.
The theme of the poem is that the usual funeral rituals are not available to soldiers killed in battle. In the first eight lines, they are replaced by gunfire and the like, on the battlefield. This is meant ironically, and bitterly. Line eight (the bugles) forms the bridge. The last six lines return to the homeland, where the usual funeral rituals (holding candles, holding a pall over the coffin, placing flowers on the grave, drawing down blinds as a sign of respect as the cortege passes) are replaced by intangibles: the wet eyes, the pale faces, the tenderness of the bereaved, and 'each slow dusk'. The poem is extraordinarily well crafted, and avoids the horror scenarios which in my opinion mar some of Owen's other poems. I particularly admire his courage in using a pun in a serious poem (pallor/pall) .
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