Image by Chance.
Here are a few brief notes on Wilfred Owen’s poem Anthem for Doomed Youth for those of you who want to revise.
Anthem for Doomed Youth is one of Owen’s most famous poems. It is often read aloud at Anzac Day services and the poem seems to silence the audience. Is it the sound of the guns in the poem or the themes it explores or the images it conveys?
It is a powerful poem that still has an effect on people today.
Examining the title of this poem is a way to look at the contrasts and themes which this poem explores. An anthem is usually a song of praise, but this poem, which is has the solemn style of an anthem, is about the death of the thousands of doomed youth in war. The use of the word youth in the title adds to the theme of the pity of war. The poem is written in sonnet form. The first 8 lines (the octet) lament the horror of the loss of these young men “who die as cattle”. The simile comparing the soldiers’ deaths to the slaughter of animals is one the audience can relate to. The first section poses the question of how do we most appropriately bury our war dead? The answer is in the sounds of battle. Owen’s use of alliteration and onomatopoeia in this section artfully create the sounds of battle.
The sestet (the next 6 lines) moves away from the sounds of war to the stillness of the home front, where the men are being mourned by their loved ones. These men, by the nature of war, have been left to lonely graves away from home and denied a burial service attended by their family and loved ones. This section acknowledges their grief and shows empathy for their loss.
The poem has bitterness, as it examines the brutality of war, and poignancy, as it examines the grief of the soldiers’ loved ones.