Discuss Anthem For Doomed Youth By Wilfred Owen, Exploring the Poems Language and Form.

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Robin Spacie


Anthem For Doomed Youth

Discuss Anthem For Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, exploring the poems language and form. Also explore the previous three drafts of the poem, comparing and contrasting them with the final copy.


Anthem For Doomed Youth was written by Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart, a military hospital in Scotland to which he was sent deeply shellshocked from his experiences on the front line in France during the First World War. In his poem Disabled he draws on this experience:

a few sick years in institutes.

Anthem For Doomed Youth explores his past experience in battle and the suffering of his comrades. He draws on his growing knowledge of the atrocities of war.

Wilfred Owen 1893 -1918 is considered to be a major war poet. He served in, amongst others, the Manchester regiment despite his delicate health and was invalided home from France after five months with his nerves shattered. He was coincidently sent to the same hospital as Siegfried Sassoon upon whom he came to rely. Returning to battle at the Front, his letters to his mother reveal his inner struggle,

I came out in order to help these boys; directly, by leading them as well as an officer can: indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can.

Towards the end he wrote,

my senses are charred: I don't take the cigarette out of my mouth when I write Deceased over their letters.

He was awarded the Military Cross for exceptional bravery in the field and was killed by machine gun fire in November 1918, just before the Armistice. He died before the book of poetry in which he planned to show

the subject of ... War and the pity of War.

could be published.

Siegfried Sassoon completed Owen's Collected Poems in 1920. They stand as a tragic memorial to his early death.

The poem is written as an English sonnet, comprising of fourteen lines with the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg. The first stanza is an octet and the second a sextet. This is important because Owen has used the sonnet form, usually having romantic content. The sonnet is also useful for conveying an argument because it can express feeling in a controlled manner. Anthem describes the horror of WWI, making a bleak comparison between what should be the natural experience of young men with the reality, which was definitely not romantic. The title is also significant because an anthem is a serious and usually religious hymn often sung at a funeral. Owen is comparing a peace-time funeral with the treatment the dead received during WWI.
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The content of the poem describes the younger soldiers, mainly "boys" who are marching to the front line where they will most probably meet their death. It was a common theme to describe the soldiers as boys. The poem is written for these young boys, hence the title, and the for youth is the key point which emphasises this. The poem describes how awful it is at the Front Line, the sights and the sounds:

the shrill, demented choir of wailing shells, ... The stuttering rifles,

The quotes above are both images of the war. ...

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