Anthem for Doomed Youth

Anthem for Doomed Youth
By Alan Liu
Background Information
• It was written between September
and October 1917
• At the time, Owen was in
Craiglockhart War Hospital in
Edinburgh, and he was under
treatment for shell shock.
• While Owen was under treatment,
he met Siegrfied Sassoon
• Sassoon helped Owen to edit and
polish the poem.
• Sassoon had made various changes
to the drafts
o “Anthem” was added to the title
o “Dead” was changed to “Doomed”
Style and Rhyme
• Anthem for the Doomed Youth has a rhyme scheme of
an English sonnet (Shakespearean sonnet). (Which is
• Although it is written in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet,
which is an Italian sonnet; It contains 14 lines, and is
divided into an octave(eight lines) and a sestet(last six
• It is normally used to express the unattainable love, and
in this case, for the “Doomed Youth”, it is used for the
young soldiers who are dying, which leaves their loved
one, their family abandoned, and this shows irony.
The Format
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.
The Title
Anthem for Doomed Youth
• Originally, Owen used “Dead” ,Sassoon had made it “Doomed”
• As well adding “Anthem” to the title of the poem. After the title
was finalized, it had a deeper meaning than the one Owen used
• “Doomed” here makes it more significant
• “Doomed Youth”, literal technique used here is assonance, the
repeating of the vowels gives the title a more ominous tone.
• The title itself is a paradox, anthem is normally used to express the
love for the homeland, but in actual fact, they are sending young
soldiers to trenches which they are unlikely to get back, because of
their doomed faith.
• Similar irony portrayed here to that of Dulce et Decorum Est.
First Stanza/first eight lines of the poem
• (line 1)What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
• Owen began with the question, which meant “what ceremonies are held for
those young soldiers who are killed like cattle.” He wants the readers to
think about it while reading.
• “Passing bells” means the ceremonies for the dead, where prayers were
• “who die as cattle”, this is a simile and connotation for how the soldiers
were slaughtered.
“for these who die as cattle” is used to show that the soldiers had a similar
fate to a creature which provide humans with meat, which shows they
cannot determine their fate.
• Owen also used cattle to describe:
o The life-span of the young soldiers.
o Cattle were mass-slaughtered and sent to the abattoir for meat, it is used to
describe the young soldiers’ lives, this shows how vulnerable the soldiers’
lives were in the trenches and the inhumane of war.
First Stanza/first eight lines of the poem
• (line 2) Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
• There is a full stop at the end of the sentence, as it answers
to the question “What passing-bells for these who die as
• “Monstrous” is a connotation here means evil and horror.
• The hatred from the soldiers gave the guns expressions,
such as anger, this is a transferred epithet, as the feelings of
the soldiers are transferred to the their weapons.
• This is also in comparison with the “passing bells”, where
people received their ceremonies, although the soldiers in
the battle field could not have the same treatment, as they
die in the battlefield without any funerals.
• (line 3) Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
• (line 4)Can patter out their hasty orisons.
• There is a repetition of only : to emphasize the “monstrous anger of
the guns”.
• Alliteration is used to describe the guns, “rifle’ rapid rattle
• “Stuttering” is used as onomatopoeia to imitate the guns as well, in
order to make it repetitive.
• It is also a personification as normally humans stutter.
• “Can patter out their hasty orisons.” contrasts with the previous
sentence, such as “rapid rattle” to “hasty orisons
• Owen compares the sounds in the trench to the prayers, it indicates
that the soldiers had a bitter life in the battlefield
• (line 5) No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
• (line 6)Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs
• (line 7)The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
Mockeries used here as a metaphor for the ceremonies
It follows with “prayers or bells”.
This shows the tragic reality of the war.
The religious ceremony for them is not enough to compensate for
their sacrifice, therefore prayers or bells are merely mockeries to
• Owen describes the choir, as a cacophony, again, he uses
comparison between two choirs to the wailing shells. He uses it to
emphasize the irony of the way they grieve about the dead soldiers,
which were meaningless and mockeries to the soldiers’ lives.
• (line 8) And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
• Bugles are war trumpets; it is for giving signals and used for
gatherings (bugle call), it is also used in funerals for the dead
• Sad shires are places where the soldiers come from, it is called sad
shires because their families are sorrowful for their loss. This shows
that although they are dying and sacrificing for their country
without any recognition, yet there are people out there in their
homes, people still remember their names, the only ones that
cared about them were their families.
• This is the end of the Octave, therefore Owen made this transition
to go on in the Sestete with more information about the families.
• (line 9) What candles may be held to speed them all?
• For the second stanza of this poem, Owen approach the
trench miseries in a different perspective. He continues
with the attention is more on the family aspect.
• This is the second question asked by Owen.
• Candles in here are the candles used in churches for
ceremonies for the dead, in order to remember the dead.
Although as Owen mocked the ceremonies, he is now
comparing the traditional ways of death to a war death.
• “Speed them all” means sending hopes forward to the dead
and hoping them to get a better afterlife.
• (line 10)Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
• (line 11) Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
• By this, Owen is using the faint light of the
candles to compare with the light from the
eyes of the soldiers, which is also a faint light.
It is showing the last hopes of the soldiers,
seeing themselves in the battlefield with their
comrades, hoping for a better afterlife.
• (Line 12) The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Pallor indicateThe girls’ faces turned pale when they
hear about the deaths of their loved ones. Since the
soldiers won’t receive a proper funeral, they will not
have a pall, which is the cloth to put on the top of
the coffin, therefore it is replaced with the grief of
the girls’ faces.
• (line 13) Their flowers the tenderness of silent
• No flowers will be placed in their funerals,
since they won’t be having proper funerals.
Their tributes will be only remembered by
their families.
• (line 14) And each slow dusk a drawing-down
of blinds
• “dusk, drawing-down” is alliteration, as it
repeats “d” for three times. By “a drawingdown of blinds” meant each day at dusk
meant that it is another soldier’s death,
therefore they had the blinds drawn down.
• In conclusion, Owen had portrayed the pity and horror
of the war through his poem. He illustrated the crucial
facts and the tragic reality of war through his poem. As
he disagreed on the ideas of religious rites. Moreover,
he involved the family’s reactions towards their
sacrifice. It showed the irony of war, where each single
death do not mean much, and their bodies may never
be found, they may never receive a funeral, although
remembered by the few relatives they have. The poem
truly gives the readers an impact on the truth behind
the lies of how the war was said to be, which in reality
was hell for all the young soldiers that fought in them.
The End
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