Anthem for Doomed Youth (Stallworthy edition)

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Anthem for Doomed Youth  (1917) 
by Wilfred Owen

One of the best-known and most popular of Wilfred Owen's poems. It employs the traditional form of a sonnet. Much of the imagery suggests Christian funeral rituals and the poem moves from infernal noise to mournful silence.

It was written in 1917, when Owen was a patient at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, recovering from shell shock. The poem itself is a lament for young soldiers whose lives were unnecessarily lost in World War I. Owen met and became close friends with another poet at the hospital, Siegfried Sassoon, and asked for his assistance in polishing his rough drafts. It was Sassoon who named it 'Anthem', and who substituted 'Doomed' for 'Dead'; the famous epithet of "patient minds" is also a correction of his. The amended manuscript copy, in both men's handwriting, still exists, and may be found at the Wilfred Owen Manuscript Archive online.

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An original draft.

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 now 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 boys, but in their eyes
  Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      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.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.