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‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ What is the poem’s purpose? Who is the poem’s audience? What is the poem about? What are the key themes?

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‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’

What is the poem’s purpose?

Who is the poem’s audience?

What is the poem about?

What are the key themes?

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’

This is one of Owen’s best known poems. Its plan is

simple. With bitter irony, the first stanza translates

the pandemonium of battle into funeral rites for the

fallen. The second stanza continues the metaphor in

the quiet of a stricken English Village.

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’

An anthem is usually a hymn to praise

or celebrate but in this bitterly ironic

title, Owen is criticising the praising of


You wouldn’t usually associate the youth with being doomed,

but these men were being sent to their deaths. Owen uses the

association of death and youth to show the inhumanity of


“What passing-bells for these who

die as cattle?”

When a person died, their body would be

taken to a church for the funeral. These

rights were not given to the those who died

in the war. These men died for their country,

yet what funeral right were they given?

“passing bells”

are the bells

used to

announce a


What image is Owen creating here? The savagery and brutality of

war is reflected on in this image of death. Using the word ‘cattle’ is a

graphic way of showing how the men had no control over their lives.

Like cattle, they were there to be slaughtered.

“Only the monstrous anger of the


Owen asks a rhetorical question before providing

the answer. He allows the reader to reflect on the

reality of how young men die at war and what

sounds after their death is not bells , but..

Instead of an honourable death, with a funeral and

people mourning them, they will just die on the

battlefield. No one will come and no one will try and

find them.

“Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.”

The imagery Owen uses here appeals to our

hearing and sight. Owen recreates the sounds

of the battlefield , showing the anger of war

with constant “stuttering” of guns killing

innocent lives.

Their ‘funeral prayers’ need to be

completed quickly as there are so

many to be said. This

empathises the vast number of

men killed in battle.

Owen uses both alliteration and

onomatopoeia to further

empathise the firing of the

guns. The alliteration mimics

the sound of the gun fire. The

gun is also personified by using

the word “patter”.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –

There is no dignity or pleasantries in dying at war. No one mourns

for our men who have been sent to be slaughtered. There are simply

too many for them to be accounted for individuality and for them to

all receive the burial they deserve for making the ultimate sacrifice.

Despite Owen’s orthodox Christian

upbringing, how his faith actually developed

during the last years is far from clear, and it is

hard not to think that he was not remembering

in this poem those members of the clergy, and

they were many, who were preaching not the

gospel of peace but of war.

The glorious dead will

have nothing. No

voices mourning them.

There will however be

choirs. But will these

be choirs in the

traditional sense?

“The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

And bugles calling for them from sad shires.”

The only choirs that will be present at these men’s

funerals will be the horrific sounds of shells and warfare.

Owen is emphasising the tragedy and pity of war.

Raving mad- this highlights

the sense that the shells and

bombs are completely out

of control. Perhaps there is

no controlling the madness

of war.

Many men came from the English counties

and countryside. Bugles were sounded,

calling them and encouraging them to go to

war, to their deaths. There is solemn tone

here heightening the sense of sadness.

The juxtaposition of "choirs" and

"wailing shells" is a startling metaphor,

God’s world and the Devil’s both as

one; after which line 8 leads into the

sestet with the contrasted, muted sound

of the Last Post.

“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.”

Why does

Owen use

the word


The last sights these men would ever see would

be the horrors and pity of war. The image here

is of the tearful eyes of the soldiers, glittering

like candles as they go towards their doom.

The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,

Flowers suggest

beauty and sadness.

paleness Coffin cloth

They patiently wait

for their men to


And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Aptly, dusk is falling in the last line and speaks of finality. The dusk

is slow, for that is how time passes for those who mourn, and with

the drawing down of blinds and the attendant sadness.

We may think of a house in Shrewsbury where at the eleventh hour

of the eleventh day of the eleventh month a telegram was delivered

that informed Wilfred Owen’s parents of his death just a week earlier.

In ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ we see the main image is the funeral

service that was not given to soldiers for their bravery and help to the

country, instead Owen compares a burial to what happened out on

the battlefield. The first verse was lively with gunfire; the imagery

appeals to hearing and sight.

The second verse we see that there are no aural images. It is a much

more silent and quiet verse, trying to show the sadness of war. Owen

was trying to show the sadness of war.

Anthem for Doomed Youth is mainly about young, brave soldiers not

getting a proper funeral service. There are images of death, sounds

of gunfire and bells. Owen felt sorrow for those killed out on the

battlefield for their country, not getting the treatment/funeral they

deserve for their ultimate sacrifice.

Form: Sonnet

A sonnet is a poetic form

It has 14 lines

rhyme scheme divides the poem's 14 lines into

two parts, an octet (first eight lines) and a sestet

(last six lines)

The 'volta', or 'turn' of meaning or focus in the

poem occurs before the sextet, as is traditional:

“And bugles calling for them from sad shires.”