Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen

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"Only The Monstrous Anger Of The Guns"

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Last Updated on May 25, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 187

Context: The poetry of Wilfred Owen, one of the poets who found his material in the horrors of World War I, was made known to the world through his posthumous volume, Poems (1920). In a poem which serves as the preface, he wrote that his book is not about heroes but about war. Above all, he continued, it is concerned with the poetry inherent in the pity of war. "Anthem for Doomed Youth," an elegy, begins with a question, "What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?" The answer is that only the guns and the reality of war itself offer the anthems for the dead. "No mockeries for them," says the poet. All of the ceremonial respects are to be supplied by the glory of their own sacrifice. No candles can be held "to speed them all;" but "in their eyes/ Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbys." And their flowers shall be "the tenderness of patient minds." The poem begins:

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.

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