Anthem of the Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen The poem I chose to study is “Anthem of the doomed youth” by Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen, the son of a railway worker, was born in Plas Wilmot, near Oswestry, on 18th March, 1893. Owen’s youthful illusion of the glory of fighting as a soldier was reflected in his words to his mother on his return to England shortly before volunteering for the army… “I now do most intensely want to fight. ” In the summer of 1917 Owen was badly concussed at the Somme after a shell landed just two yards away.
After several days in a bomb crater with the mangled corpse of a fellow officer, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock. While recovering at Craig Lockhart War Hospital he met the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Owen showed Sassoon his poetry, who advised and encouraged him. So also did another writer at the hospital, Robert Graves. Sassoon suggested that Owen should write in a more direct, colloquial style and thus guided him into writing “Anthem for the doomed youth” amongst several other poems he wrote during his stay at the hospital. Anthem for a doomed youth” it is a Shakespearean sonnet with a rhyming scheme of abab cdcd effe gg. It’s a very traditional format, which isn’t surprising as Siegfried Sassoon, a very experienced and traditional poet, collaborated with Owen to write this much thought out piece. Because the poem was a collaboration, the style stands out from many of his other pieces of work, as this is more traditional to what Owen would have normally written. In most cases, sonnets take their title from the first line; in this case the first line sets the mood for the reader by starting off with a question that the poet then proceeds to answer.
Though the poem is war based, the title itself suggests innocence with “youth” which may suggest a connection with the church, as an anthem is a choral composition. However, the word “doomed” also adds a sinister touch to the sonnet which could also be taken as a premonition of doom, which intrigues the reader to read on to find the cause of the supposed “doom”. Instantly with the first line Owen refers to the soldiers who die in the battle as “these who die as cattle”. It makes the men seem like a sort of strength with no real meaning behind it, like soldiers sent to battle and inevitably be slaughtered yet not fully realising why.
The next two lines then take the reader to the battle, where the disturbing and frightening atmosphere of gunshots is emphasised as a, “monstrous anger” He also gives the atmosphere a more dramatic effect by using alliteration, “rifle’s rapid rattle” which emphasises the harsh and unrelenting sounds of the battlefield. So loud and unrelenting that it drowns out their quick prayers made in haste, not allowing them their moment of God’s guidance, “Patter out their hasty Orisons. In the next line, “No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells”, this could be a more personal belief of Owen’s, that fighting and killing are wrong in the eyes of god, as he said in a letter to his mother, “namely that one of Christ’s essential commands was: Passivity at any price! Suffer dishonour and disgrace, but never resort to arm. Be bullied, be outraged, be killed, but do not kill. ” In the next few lines of the octave he changes the, what I feel like sort of a homely religious scene into something more disturbing and frightening, as mourning choirs becomes a “shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells. And it seems that throughout the poem he likes to keep a sense of innocence about the soldiers, calling them “boys” which emphasises on how the young the soldiers were, which makes the sonnet more moving and causes the reader to feel sympathy ands perhaps some sort of sadness. In the last few lines of the poem Owen mentions what when they die they don’t have a decent funeral, merely memories of those they left behind, “but in their eyes shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. It reminded me mainly how the soldiers weren’t the only ones who had suffered throughout the war, all those loved ones that they left behind had nothing to bury or see for the last time, just memories of their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and uncles. The poem itself flows smoothly as Owen keeps the rhythm going at a slow and steady pace, causing the reader to think about it more carefully, using mainly full stops rather commas. This may suggest that Owen wants the reader to stop for a moment and think about what he just said, to try and picture it in you mind, “Only the monstrous anger of the guns. On that line I think that Owen probably wanted us, as the reader to imagine the tremendous noise that would be surrounding the soldiers. It would have struck fear into the hearts of the soldier and reader as it did to me. And also when he says “glimmers of goodbyes. ” This brings a lot of emotion to the sonnet; it made me feel sadness and sympathy for those left behind in the war. The soldier who wrote this sonnet experienced many tragedies and horrors serving at the front line for what he thought at first, to be a noble cause, which turned out to be a mass slaughter for causes unknown to the common soldier.
I felt that Wilfred Owen captures the reality of the war in this very touching and moving sonnet; by emphasising the number of deaths of the innocent he outlines the severity of the war. And I like the fact that because of his first hand experience, he wrote what no journalist or any sort of media could have portrayed as romantic or heroic, he wrote what he saw before him, in the eyes of his fellow men and soldiers
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