Anthem to Doomed
Youth by Wilfred
Belen Brito Peret, Luz Esteban, Olivia Obligado and
What passing-bells for these who die
— Only the monstrous anger of the
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no
prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing
And bugles calling for them from
What candles may be held to speed
Not in the hands of boys, but in
Shall shine the holy glimmers of
The pallor of girls' brows shall be
Their flowers the tenderness of patient
And each slow dusk a drawing-down
- WILFRED OWEN
Author and Context
● Wilfred Edward Salter Owen is the author of the poem and he was born on 18 March 1893 in
● He began writing poetry as a teenager. It was during this time that he lost faith in the church
to support people in need. This is a theme running through Anthem for Doomed Youth as he
shows his disillusionment at religion and the associated ceremonies.
● Owen experienced the horrors of war and life in the trenches. After surviving heavy fighting,
he was diagnosed with shellshock that is a post-traumatic stress disorder.
● Anthem for Doomed Youth was written in 1917. A handwritten draft of the poem survives, ,
“With Sassoon’s amendments”.
● Owen returned to France in August 1918 and in October was awarded the Military Cross for
● He was killed on 4 November 1918 during war.. The news of his death reached his parents on
11 November, Armistice Day, when the world was celebrating the end of the war.
The poem describes memorial tributes to dead soldiers,
ironically comparing the sounds of war to the choirs and
bells which usually sound at funerals.
1. Appreciation of soldier’s sacrifice:
○ Celebrates the death of men who sacrificed their lives during the
○ Celebrates their losses with genuine, solemn anthems.
○ “My subject is War, and the pity of war”
○ He witnessed the brutality and horrors of war.
○ In this poem Owen shows that the glory portrayed by those writers
is an illusion. He does this by comparing the soldiers to “cattle”
dying in their herds, with no ceremony and little comfort in their final
● Loss of faith as he shows how inadequate religion and faith are when
faced with the reality of the trenches.
● The poem refers to aspects of religious ceremony,
● Funeral practices,
3) Death :
● The deaths of the young soldiers who died in the war.
● Owen shows such a death to be bleak and harsh.
● Imagery and sound effects emphasises noises such as guns lamenting
the loss of the soldiers back home.
Sad and lonely
● Negative poem
● save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
“rifles’ rapid rattle”
“Only the monstrous anger of the guns”
The author cleverly chooses to personify the guns so as to express that while the soldiers
were becoming dehumanized, the weapons were becoming more human. This is a
representation of both how empty their souls were as a consequence of war and the way in
which weapons took control over their lives, considering that they did not have other choice
but to make use of them.
“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?”
This simile conveys the inhumanity and savagery of these soldier’s deaths, proving once
more that these young men were doomed to die at war. It is important to mention that they
might be dying without really understanding why.
“Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds”
The author implies this metaphor so as to compare the ritual of putting flowers
on a grave with the patience of those waiting at home. Therefore, it might
suggest that the sympathy and compassion of others towards the dying
soldier is as important as to honour them by putting flowers on their grave.
- Imagery and symbol:
“And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds”
This last line is both an image and a symbol. First, the setting of dusk reminds
us of death. The “drawing down of blinds” might also express people's denial
towards the darkness of death. By using this symbol, the author wants the
readers to understand the terrible cruelties of war and so as to start
acknowledging both what really happened and the soldier’s struggle.
Furthermore, this is suggestive of how the human ignorance towards reality
influences on our comfortable perspective about war.
The word "doomed" predicts the theme of the poem, foreshadowing
this way the fact that it is going into a heavy and dark territory. The word
“youth” is also quite direct as it criticizes and highlights that young
soldiers are the ones who are doomed and dying. This also points out an
immature and innocent reaction towards war, considering that they are
youngsters. The weird part is that the first word, "Anthem” refers to
gladness. Therefore, we can identify the title as a bit contradictory
because it is not possible to be glad while young men are dying in war.
This way, it points out the perspective people have about war versus the
terrible doom the soldiers really face. This is because before reading the
poem, we may assume that it expresses a general perception of war,
however, then we realise that it actually shows the soldier’s cruel reality.
1- “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?”
This quote, is the one which opens the poem, Owen uses a rhetorical
question representing the soldiers death at war. He also questions the
amount of respect given to the soldiers.
2- “No prayers nor bells; choirs”
By this quote, owen uses religion words as “bells” and “choirs” to show
the lack of attention a soldier receives when he die.
3- “My subject is War, and the pity of war”
By using the world “pity” he shows the appreciation he have towards
Comparison to real life:
● This stills happens
● War still exists.
● They give their all for the cause
● The mass slaughter of animals
● The poem throughout compares the deaths of the soldiers with
traditional funeral rites and ceremonies.
● Why should so many die in such a hideous way? How come
we are blind to the inhumanity of war?
● The poem's success lies in the stark contrast between the
furious, explosive reality of the battle and the calm holiness of
the church ritual.
Personal opinion and perception:
From this poem we can rescue the notorious rejection and great
disappointment of Owen towards the church and its ceremonies, reflected
in the deaths in vain due to the war. This shows us his point of view of
these terrible battles, lived in the flesh. It makes us understand that there
is not a single good factor about the war, everything is terrible, all the lives
lost, all the pain it causes, the chaos, the crisis, the traumas, are because
of this, and there is nothing that can heal those memories or wounds.
What does the poem teach us?
What really the poem teach and shows us is that in reality war is
something terrible and that the churches make it show as something
honorary when in reality it is not. Because they send millions of poor
innocent men to war knowing that they are going to die and then after
all the church and the estate would say that it was for a good cause.
When in reality they are full of "blood" of innocent people who were
sentenced to death.
Sean Bean Reads Wilfred Owen’s Anthem
to Doomed Youth