- Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen was born the 18th of March 1893 in United Kingdom. He's probably, one of the most important English War Poets. The popularity of Owen today can be explained by his condemnation of the horrors of war. As an English poet, he is noted for his anger at the cruelty and waste of war and his pity for its victims. He said," "My subject is War and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
The title, 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', gives the first impression of the poem. An 'anthem', is a song of praise, perhaps sacred, so we get the impression that the poem might be about something religious or joyous. However, the anthem is for 'Doomed Youth' which describes something negative.
The poet shows his anger and bitterness in the first part of the poem. In the second part of the poem he expresses his sadness at the pathetic condition of the soldiers. The poem is a sonnet. The first stanza is mainly about the battlefield, whereas the second stanza is more about the reactions of friends and family back at home. The poem starts with a rhetorical question and is very intense from the starting. In order to express his ideas, Owen mixes the sad, calm images of a funeral with the chaotic, explosive images of a battlefield. The poet uses poetic techniques such as imagery, personification, assonance and alliteration and sound (onomatopoeia) to convey his ideas and feelings. He uses the rhyme scheme effectively.
In the first line, he uses a simile to describe the soldiers as 'cattle' and says that they die an insignificant death as there are no passing bells for them. 'Passing-bells' is "a bell tolled after someone's death to announce the departure of that person from this world". Here it can either mean that there are not enough bells, or there is no time to ring the bells for each dying soldier. "The monstrous anger of the guns" is the answer for the first line, and describes what the soldiers receive. The line is onomatopoeic and gives an image of the intense firing of the guns. 'Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle can patter out their hasty orisons,' are two effective lines that imply that instead of prayers, the soldiers receive the firing of bullets.. The poet uses alliteration in the words 'rifles' rapid rattle' to emphasize the sounds of destruction which is continuous.
'No mockeries no prayers nor bells nor choirs,' is the opening to the second quatrain and illustrates the horrific way in which soldiers die and that they do not even receive basic objects that would be expected in a traditional ceremony. Instead, these soldiers who have died fighting for their country receive 'The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells and bugles'. 'Shrill' is a hard and strong word that creates the image that the 'funeral' was not a quiet and peaceful way of saying goodbye to the soldiers. The shells and bugles are described as 'wailing.' This is onomatopoeia and a personification. This word portrays the image of sadness, perhaps that so many innocent men lose their lives for no obvious reason.
The next stanza also begins with a rhetorical question, 'what candles may be held to speed them all?' It creates the impression that the deceased are moving on to their next life, possibly showing Wilfred Owens's religious views on life. 'The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall,' suggests that the girls back at home have pale, grief stricken faces. Wives and other female relatives cry in despair. It suggests the terrible effect that their tragic death has had on their relatives and the strong, sorrowful emotions they must be encountering. 'Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,' compares the bright, colorful flowers that would be offered at a ceremonial to suffering relatives and friends of the 'victim.' The final comparison is that of dusk to the drawing down blinds in a house in mourning. 'And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds,' creating the image that dusk is like a blind that is being lowered. The funeral is over and the rhetorical question that the poet asked at the beginning of the stanza has been answered, and the noise has vanished. Throughout the poem the point that is emphasized is that the soldiers that die do not receive dignified endings and even in death, battle still rages around them.