In both of these poems Anthem For Doomed Youth and MCMXIV talking about war, Wilfred Owen and Philip Larkin try in different ways to engrave in their readers minds the atrocious actions that war provoked with different language, voice but also form.
First of all, the poems are written in a different way. Anthem For Doomed Youth with his ABAB CDCD ABBACC rhyme scheme is in fact a sonnet. However, a sonnet is usually used to glorify love and romance whereas Anthem For Doomed Youth focuses on the First World War. We can assume that Wilfred Owen surely wanted to contrast these two opposite subjects to create an ironic atmosphere. We can already guess the poem is going to be powerful and memorable. On the other hand, the second poem, MCMXIV,is composed of 4 stanzas containing each 8 lines but which don’t have a rhythmic pitch. For me, it looks like Philip Larkin is narrating a tale or a story. In my opinion, the sonnet gives a rhythm to the poem and catches more the reader’s attention even if it seems shorter than Larkin’s poem.
Secondly, we know both of these poems are talking about the First Wold War. But if we look a little bit closer, we can clearly feel a difference in the choice of words and language. After reading the first poem, we feel a mix of disgust, revulsion and unfairness whereas after reading Philip Larkin’s one, melancholia, emptiness and sadness invade us. How can two poems with the same subject can lead to such different feelings?
The sonnet looks like it is divided in two parts, both of the ‘stanzas’ start with a question: “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?”, “What candles may be held to speed them all?” Then, the following lines answer to the questions. For me, it seems it’s like a speech with two rhetorical questions. The poet asks the questions but already has the answers and responds to it very precisely in a very negative way: ‘no’, ‘nor’, ‘not’ are used at the beginning of a line following the question....
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