Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth with Questions to Guide Your Analysis
Anthem for Doomed Youth
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 for them from prayers or 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 glimmer of good-byes.
The pallor of the girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.
Answer the following questions about the poem.
Remember to quote from the poem to illustrate and support your responses
- Why do you think the poet called the poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’?
- The poet is making a comparison between dying and being buried at home and dying on the battlefield. Find examples of this comparison in the poem and then explain how each comparison works.
- Each verse starts with a question. Why do you think the poet does this? Do you think the technique works well for this poem?
- What is the tone of the poem? Use examples from the poem to illustrate your answer.
- Why are the soldiers being killed on the battlefield being compared to cattle being slaughtered? Is this comparison effective?
- Lines 3 and 4 make use of alliteration. Explain the alliteration and also say why you think it’s effective or not effective.
- In lines 7 and 8, the word ‘choir’ is repeated. Why and to what effect?
- What does the line ‘bugles calling for them from sad shires’ mean?
- Explain the lines: ‘Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.’
- Explain the line: ‘The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;’.
- What does the last line in the poem mean? Is it a good way to end the poem? Why?
- What do you think of the poem as a whole? Do you like it/not like it? Explain.
Please indicate in the Comments Box below whether you have found these the worksheet Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth with Questions at a;; helpful, I would really appreciate some feedback in this regard. My intention with these kinds of exercises is to help direct your attention to significant features and lines in the poem while leaving you to do the exploration for yourself – and experience the thrill of grappling with the material in the text and arriving at a deeper understanding of both the ideas expressed and the way those ideas have been created formally.
If you need help with how to go about analysing a poem, here is a free handout called Analysing a Literary Text: Leverage Your Talent & Flourish for you.