Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
In memory of all those who died in WWI and WWII
Wilfred Owen was born into middle-class comfort in Oswestry but his family fell on hard times and moved north to Birkenhead. In October 1915 he enlisted in the Artist's Rifles and in June 1916 he was commissioned into the 2nd Manchester Regiment. He left for France on 29 December but returned home on 2 May suffering from shell-shock.
He was transferred to Craiglockhart, a hospital just outside Edinburgh offering specialised psychiatric treatment. It was to prove a turning point in his poetical development as it was here he met Siegfried Sassoon, already a very well known, published poet. Sassoon not only suggested improvements to Owens style and approach but he later introduced Owen to poets such as Robert Graves. Owen published works in the hospital journal and, before returning to France in September 1918, he published several poems to critical acclaim in literary journals.On his return to the front line, Owen won the Military Cross for bravery but he was killed in action on 4 November 1918. News of his death reached his parents a week later on the day of the signing of the Armistice marking the end of the war.
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 the boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
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.