Anthem for Doomed Youth


One of the best regarded war poets for his shocking realism about the horrors of war, Anthem for Doomed Youth is one of Owen's most famous poems from his collection published posthumously in 1919. Only five poems were published before his death in November, 1918. From his preface:

British vickers machine guns in Belgium"This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, dominion or power, except War.
Above all, this book is not concerned with Poetry.
The subject of it is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity.
Yet these elegies are not to this generation, this is in no sense consolatory.
They may be to the next.
All the poet can do to-day is to warn.
That is why the true Poets must be truthful.
If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives Prussia,—my ambition and those names will be content; for they will have achieved
themselves fresher fields than Flanders."

Anthem for Doomed Youth
Draft manuscript by Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
        Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
        Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
     Can patter out their hasty orisons.
     No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
     Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
     The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
     And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

     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;
     Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
     And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Featured in our collection of World War I Literature

If you enjoyed Owen's work, you may like the poetry of Vera Brittain, World War I nurse, poet, and pacifist.


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