Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
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 goodbyes.
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.
- “for these who die as cattle.” What does Owen achieve by comparing the death of the youth men to that of cattle?
- Instead of the sound of bells, what sound will be heard for those who die on the battlefield?
- The word “orisons” means prayers. What will replace the prayers of the funeral ceremony?
- “Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.” What does Owen achieve by the alliteration of the letters “r” and “t”?
- “Stuttering” and “rattle” are onomatopoeic words. Why are they suitable here?
- The battlefield dead will not be able to have a church choice to farewell them. What kind of choir will they have?
- What words suggest the sound of the shells in flight?
- “Demented” means insane. Do you think “demented” is a suitable word to describe the shells? Why or why not?
- In peacetime at a funeral, candles might be held by choirboys. What will the dead youth have instead of candles?
- A pall is a cloth used to cover a coffin. What will the doomed youth have instead of a pall?
- “Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds.” What will there be for them instead of flowers?
- It was the custom to draw down the blinds of a house as a mark of respect for someone’s death. How could “each slow dusk” be “a drawing-down of blinds”? What does the poet achieve here by this metaphor?
- An anthem is a song of praise. Do you think “Anthem for Doomed Youth” is a suitable title for the poem? Explain your viewpoint.
- What is the poet’s message in the poem?