- ANTHEM1 FOR DOOMED YOUTH
- What passing-bells2 for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
- Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
- Can patter out3 their hasty orisons.4
- No mockeries5 now for them; no prayers nor bells;
- Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
- The shrill, demented6 choirs of wailing shells;
- And bugles7 calling for them from sad shires.8
- What candles9 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 pallor10 of girls' brows shall be their pall;
- Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
- And each slow dusk11 a drawing-down of blinds.12
- September - October, 1917
- Notes for students
- 1 Anthem - perhaps best known in the expression "The National Anthem;" also, an
important religious song (often expressing joy); here, perhaps, a solemn song of
- 2 passing-bells - a bell tolled after someone's death to announce the death to the world
- 3 patter out - rapidly speak
- 4 orisons - prayers, here funeral prayers
- 5 mockeries - ceremonies which are insults. Here Owen seems to be suggesting that
the Christian religion, with its loving God, can have nothing to do with the deaths of so
many thousands of men
- 6 demented - raving mad
- 7 bugles - a bugle is played at military funerals (sounding the last post)
- 8 shires - English counties and countryside from which so many of the soldiers came
- 9 candles - church candles, or the candles lit in the room where a body lies in a coffin
- 10 pallor - paleness
- 11 dusk has a symbolic significance here
- 12 drawing-down of blinds - normally a preparation for night, but also, here, the
tradition of drawing the blinds in a room where a dead person lies, as a sign to the world
and as a mark of respect. The coming of night is like the drawing down of blinds.
- Notes from Out in the Dark - Poetry of the First World War in
Context edited by David Roberts. Copyright © David Roberts 1998. Free use by
individual students for personal use only.