The two poems “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen and “Vergissmeinnicht” By Keith Douglas fall under the genre of “War Poetry” and explore similar themes, including the effects of war, love, and death. I intend to analyse both the poems’ structure and content to explore these themes and explain why and how the poets have portrayed them in verse. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” takes the form of a Petrarchan sonnet due to its stanzaic structure of an octet succeeded by a sestet; however it follows a rhyme scheme more closely associated with a Shakespearean sonnet, abab cdcd, effe gg. However, instead of using a heroic rhyme scheme of abab for the lines: 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;
he uses a rhyme enclosure of abba, possibly to differentiate between this poem and other poems which use the Shakespearean rhyme scheme, which are often concerned with the semantic field of love. In this poem doomed love is an overriding theme, the poem itself is an “elegy, a lament for the dead.” (Simcox) Therefore, Owen’s aim to askew the traditional theme of a sonnet is complimented by his variation on the traditional rhyme scheme.
Religion is also an overriding theme of this poem and Owen chooses to intercut references to war with to religious imagery, “Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs- / The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells.” With the first line Owen conjures the image of a choir singing hymns in a church or similar setting, while in the second line it’s as if Owen is making a correction to the preceding line, contrasting the original image with one concerned with the heat of battle. These two lines, and examples elsewhere in the poem, suggest that Owen considered religion irrelevant to what was happening during the First World War. This viewpoint is backed up by a letter he sent to his mother in...
Bibliography: Simcox, Kenneth, 2000, [http://wilfredowen.org.uk/poetry/anthem-for-doomed-youth]
Birkshire, Bill, 2010, [http://www.poetryconnection.net/poets/Keith_Douglas/2322/comments]
Stallworthy, Jon, Wilfred Owen. Oxford University Press, 1974.
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