ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH
‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a moving sonnet dealing with the futility and horrors of war. Wilfred Owen, the poet who had tragically met his death in World War II, once emphatically declared,
“My subject is war, and the pity of war,
The poetry is in the pity.”
Unlike many of his precursors, who glorified war, Owen felt that war was a meaningless and pitiful experience. In this idea, he realistically delineates from pathos
There is a bitter irony in the title itself. An anthem is a song of praise and gladness, but here’s unrelieved gloom. This sonnet has two parts, each starting with a question and followed by the answer to it.
Young soldiers die in the battlefield not like heroes, but like helpless cattle in a slaughterhouse. Hence Owen asks,
“What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?”
Their imminent death is announced by the hideous booming of guns. Their last prayers are said by the rapid stuttering rattle of the rifles. All rituals of saying prayers or ringing of bells would be mockery under the circumstances the young soldiers die on the battlefield. There are no choirs to sing for them except the “shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells”. In the native shires of the dead soldiers, military honors are showered upon them. Bugles are blown on these occasions in their honor. However, ironically, the same bugles called them to the battlefield to perish.
The poet asks again, “What candles may be held to speed them all?”
The comrades of the soldiers will not hold candles in their hands to mourn their death. Instead, “in their eyes will shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes”. There will be no palls to cover their dead bodies in their coffins. They will have the pale brows of their girlfriends instead. There is no need to place flowers on their coffins; “the tenderness of the patient minds” will be the never-fading flowers. There will not be any ceremonial drawing down of curtains in their honor. Rather, there will be...