“ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH”, Wilfred Owen
The First World War was a military conflict which took place mostly in Europe from 1914 to 1918. It is clear that it left millions dead and shaped the modern world.
There were two powers: the Allied Powers, led by France, Russia, the British Empire, and later, Italy and the United States, and the Central Powers, led by Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire.
World War I created a decisive break with the old world order that had emerged after the Napoleonic Wars, which was modified by the mid-19th century’s nationalistic revolutions. The outcomes of World War I would be important factors in the development of World War II 21 years later.
After World War I, a big amount of poets started to write about it. Those poets were called “war poets”, more of whom had been soldiers. So, they wrote about their experiences of the war.
There was probably at least as much poetry written on the German side of the Western Front, but it was in English poetry in which the war poem became an established genre which was highly popular among the population.
One of the most important war poets was Wilfred Owen, together with his friend Siegfried Sassoon. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_poets)
So, the First World War produced some of the most gifted and progressive authors, poets and artist of a generation, each channelling their individual and collective experiences into their chosen art form. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/remembrance/poetry/wwone.shtml)
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born the 18th of March 1983 at Plas Wilmot, in Shropshire, of mixed English and Welsh ancestry. After the dead of his grandfather, the family was forced to move to lodgings in the back streets of Birkenhead. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_owen)
From the age of nineteen Owen wanted to be a poet and immersed himself in poetry, being especially impressed by Keats and Shelley. But he wrote almost no poetry of importance until he saw action in France in 1917.
On 21st of October 1915 he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles. He was in training at Hare Hall Camp in Essex during the next seven months. In January 1971 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant with The Manchester Regimen. After some traumatic experiences, which included leading his platoon into battle and getting trapped for three days in shell-hole, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. It was there where he met his friend Siegfried Sassoon. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_owen)
In July of 1918, Owen returned to active service in France, although he might have stayed on home-duty indefinitely. His decision was almost wholly the result of Sassoon’s being sent back to England. Sassoon was violently opposed to the idea of Owen returning to the trenches. Aware of his attitude, Owen did not inform him of his action until he was once again in France. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_owen)
Seven days later the war was over Owen’s parents, Susan and Tom, received the telegram announcing their son’s death as the chuch bells were ringing out in celebration. (http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owena.htm)
As part of his therapy at the hospital, his doctor encouraged him to translate his experiences into poetry. Owen’s most famous poems are “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_owen)
3. “ANTHEM OF THE 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 for them from prayers or 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 silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
By: Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
4. ANALYSIS OF THE POEM: “Anthem for Doomed Youth”
Wilfred Owen only published six poem during his life, three of them in “Hydra”, the hospital magazine he edited. So, his reputation grew rapidly after his death, when his friend Sassoon collected and edited his “Poems” in 1920. Among the best known are “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.
Known for his abrasive and heart-wrenching depictions of war, Wilfred Owen is known for going right to the heart of the reader through his poetry to evoke his or her raw emotions. In the poem, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, he once again finds the shortest and most abrupt descriptions he possibly can to describe soldiers being slaughtered on the battlefield. (http://www.warpoetry.co.uk.owena.htm).
He is not only describing his die, but also how they die: with indifference among them. There is no emotion for each man, whose death will also mean little until their bodies are taken home to be laid to rest among their families.
Related to the structure of the poem, we can say that this poem is a variation of the Elizabethan sonnet. Owen has divided the fourteen lines of this sonnet into two stanzas, the break coming at the end of the line 8. As is the case with the Elizabethan sonnets, this poem has ten syllables of iambic pentameters, because there are five feet, and each foot contains a short syllable followed by a long one.
The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFFE /GG, which differs slightly from the classical Elizabethan sonnets, whose rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF / GG. (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soneto#El_soneto_en_lengua_inglesa).
By using a sonnet for the structure of his poem, Wilfred Owen introduces a touch of irony, because the conventional function of the sonnet is love, and this poem is sort of anti-love, I mean, the young soldiers have to spend their time in the trenches. So, their lives are wasted and, overall, the lives of their loved ones at home are also ruined. (http://www.1914-18.co.uk/owen/anthem.htm)
Talking about the tone, we must say that the poet depicts a strong anger at the futility of war, because he is an anti-war poet.
If we read the poem, we can observe that in the first octet Owen makes a catalogue of the sound of war, the weapons of destructions such as “guns” (line 2), “rifles” (line 3) and “shells” (line 7), which are linked to religious imagery such as “orisons” (line 4), “bells” (line 5), “prayers” (line 5). In contrast, in the second stanza the poem talks about the other side of a war: the families of those who die in the war.
As we have said before, Wilfred Owen is an anti-war poet, since he is suffering from being in the first line of the trenches. So, his aim is to show through the use of shock images how inhuman war is. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_owen)
We can see these grotesque images, for example, in the first line, when he makes a simile showing how the soldiers are no more important than cattle which are lead to the slaughter without felling (“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?”).
Throughout the poem, Wilfred Owen uses a lot of comparisons, one of these is the simile between a typical funeral in a church and what would happen to a soldier killed in battle (http://www.warpoetry.co.uk.owena.htm). For example, he compares the church bells with the noise of a gun-fire; the prayers with the rapid rifle fire; the choirs with the wailing of shells; the candles head by altar boys with the lights of the sky reflected in the dead eyes of the soldiers…
Related to the title, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, we have to say that it is definitely ironic on using the juxtaposition of “anthem”, which is associated with praise and triumph, with “doomed”, which means certain demise.
In my opinion, through doing this, Owen shocks the reader and introduces them into the theme of the poem, the death of soldiers, and gets the audience to question themselves the war. Moreover, I think that the word “youth” accentuates his message of the wrong of the war.
Wilfred Owen uses various literary devices through this poem. Firstly, the title itself has a significant use of assonance: “doomed youth”. In my opinion, the sound is intended to be long and melancholic. Secondly, repetition is used in the poem to make it seem monotonous. Finally, by using personification, Owen makes the enemies’ guns seem evil and monstrous. I think that this can cause us to feel some of the emotions felt in the trenches.
Related to the final couplet, its syntax implies that this “drawing-down of blinds” (line 14), along with the “tenderness of patient minds” (line 13) stands in place of the flowers that would adorn a funeral or a grave, and flowers, like blinds, close as night falls. This silent grieving stands in stark contrast with the noise and violence of the battlefield not only in mood but also in meaning: instead of representing a poor parody of the rites of burial, this grieving transcends more outward observance, replacing ritual with a deeply felt and lasting interior observance.
After World War I, a big amount of poets started to write about it. Those poets were called “war poets”, more of whom had been soldiers. So, they wrote about their experiences of the war. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_poets)
One of the most important war poets was Wilfred Owen, whose most important poems are “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth”. Wilfred Owen was an anti-war poet, since he had been suffering from being in the first lines of the trenches. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_poets)
So, in the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, Wilfred Owen asks what burial rites will be offered for the soldiers who die on the battlefields of World War I and argues that in place of normal funeral, these men will receive, initially, a parody of funeral rites, encated by noise of guns, and later the more authentic rites of mourning supplied by the enduring grief of a family and friends at home.
To end this essay about the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, I want to give my opinion. I didn’t know that poem, and when I found it on the internet I thought that my essay had to be about it. It is a very beautiful and sentimental poem. In my opnion Wilfred Owen was one of the doomed youth he speas of in this poem, because he survived through for years of World War I to be killed during the last week of the war.
So, I recommend that poem to everyone, because it concentrates very well on the horror of war and especially in the death of young men on the front line. Moreover, all that is said through this poem, is true!