“Anthem for Doomed Youth.” Having begun work on a poetry collection he planned to call Minor Poems—in Minor Keys—by a Minor, Owen enlisted in the British Army in 1915. Two years later he recuperated from a wound at the Craiglockart War Hospital, where he shared his verse with fellow patient and published poet Siegfried Sassoon. He returned to France in August 1918, received a Military Cross in October, and was killed in November, a week before Armistice Day. Sassoon oversaw the posthumous publication of his friend’s poetry.
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.