Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; (5)
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 (10)
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. (14)
Originally published in 1920
Analysis of Poem:
This poem is specifically about the death of a soldier and the notification of that death to his family. This is the reality of war. The word "anthem" has a few different meanings, the one that seems to be the most pertinent to this poem is: an unusually rousing popular song that typifies or is identified with a particular subculture, movement, or point of view. Soldiers of WWI would definitely identify with this poem; no one else (i.e. civilians) could understand everything that they went through during the war. They are fighting a war without knowing the real reasons behind it. They were often poorly equipped. They are the doomed youth of their day.
Line 1: "passing-bells" is a tolling of a bell to announce a soul is passing, or has passed, from its body. It is also a tolling during the passing of a funeral procession to the grave, or during the actual funeral ceremony.
Line 2: "anger of the guns" is an example of personification; attributing human qualities to a nonhuman object or force.
Lines 1-2: These men don't get to have a conventional death; they die in a big field surrounded by other rotting corpses. They don't get to hear the bells calling them to heaven, because the sound of the angry guns is too loud.
Line 3: "rifles' rapid rattle" is an example of alliteration; the repetition of an initial...
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