Anthem for Doomed Youth is a poem written by Wilfred Owen. Anthem
is written as a piece of mourning about the soldiers lost in WWI, this being especially
ironic as Wilfred Owen himself died in World War I, two weeks before the
Armistice. Anthem was written in 1917, when Owen was healing in a Scottish hospital
after sustaining an injury during battle. Owen was not necessarily a pacifist but
rather, was interested in exploring the idea of why the war was occurring in
the first place.

Similar to the style of Dulce et Decorum Est, Anthem for
Doomed Youth explores the darker side of war, and it represents the massacre of
thousands of young men. The very title of the poem describes what the poem is
about, a song for young men destined to die in the war. Owen used his personal
memories and experiences to illustrate the slaughter of the men, saying that “these
who die as cattle,” this comparison directly compares men to cattle which are
often reared to slaughter, the same as these men. Owen also talks of the rifles
pattering “out their hasty orisons,” which illustrates that the prayers for the
deaths are not recited, except for with the “stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.”
This links in to the glowing contrast that repeats in the poem, as the words
switch from describing the horrors of war to normal funeral processes that
occurred at the time. Owen then goes on to state that there are “no prayers nor
bells” for the dead, prayers and bells are examples of common funereal practices
at that time, further linking to my earlier observation, also the fact that earlier
Owen said the guns pattered out the “orisons” here he further establishes that
there were no technical prayers, but rather the rifles’ rapid rattle. Like the “rifles’
rapid rattle,” Owen later mentions the “shrill demented choirs of wailing shells”
and that they are the only “voice of mourning.” This further agrees with the
observation as choirs are used in churches, where funerals happen, and that on
the battlefield, there are too many dead, thus meaning that no one is mourning
but the “wailing shells.” This is also ominous as shells means artillery
shells, which terrified every soldier as they came from nowhere and made a lot
of noise while raining down death. The last line of the stanza describes the “bugles
calling them for them from sad shires,” this being especially powerful, as
bugles have two main uses. The musical instrument is used in war band to assist
troops with marching and as a call to arms when launching attacks but there is
another use for the instrument, it is used to play The Last Post at military
funerals. This contrast between the battlefield buglers and the lone bugler at
the funerals suggests that as the men die, the bugle calls are what they will
hear, whereas the family missing them “from sad shires,” will also hear bugles,
but at funerals they hold back home for their dead family members.

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The second stanza also begins with the relation between the
massacre of young men, called “boys” in the poem to further illustrate the youth
of soldiers in the war, and regular funerals back home. Candles are symbols of
hope, light and holiness in life, Owen suggests that these candles will not be
help by innocent boys, but reflected in their eyes, the “doomed youth.” The
next line describes the “pallor of girls” brows shall be their pall” to
illustrate that the paleness of girls mourning them back at home shall be their
funeral shroud. Owen also opines that the flowers that are normally placed at
the graveside will instead be the agony of their families back at home. The
final line in the play is especially powerful as a family mourning a loss would
traditionally include drawing your blinds as a respect to the dead, but as these
soldiers lay dead on the slaughter fields, only the natural fading of the light
will be present.