Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Day: Anthem for Doomed Youth

Wilfred Owen's Grave:
 Ors Community
Cemetery, France
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 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 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.

Wilfred Owen.

Wilfred Owen (please read his biography and beautiful poems here at The First World War Poetry Digital Archive) was born on the 18th of March 1893 and aged twenty-five was killed in action on 4th November 1918, leading an attack  by the Sambre Canal, near Ors, France.  His parents learnt of his death on Armistice Day.

Like many before him and many after him, he died for this ugly thing we call war – his, a young life wasted but bravely given.

The First World War, the first mindless global insanity brought about by the idiocy of the treaty alliance system, the war to end all wars…

and still we return to savagery and play our deadly tribal games.

We remember and honour all those brave young men (women and children) who died in WW1 - whether they be soldiers or civilians - and all those who have died in the countless wars that have followed, on this, this Remembrance Day.  We must never forget. 

One day hopefully we will learn from our bloody past (and present), and our future will be bright.  But I fear we will not…


Wilfred’s poem: 'This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (; © [Copyright notice]'.
Image: (also courtesy of the above) Reference URL


Jenny Woolf said...

I love that poem. We did it at school and it has stayed with me ever since. A good argument for chldren learning poetry.Thanks, Anna.

Jobbing Doctor said...

One of the great poems. Set to music wonderfully by Benjamin Britten in his "War Requiem". One more rason for me to be a pacifist.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anna .. lovely post for Remembrance Day .. we have so many to thank who have lost their lives ..

I'm just about to watch the Cenotaph Service ..

With thoughts to all families and friends who have lost loved ones .. Hilary

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thanks for your welcome comments folks.

JD ~ I would like to think we are all pacifists at heart, pacifists unfortunately led into battle by those who profess to lead us in government.

However hidden away in our genes is the residue of who we were – the savage tribal predator – we are the product of our ancestors.

As we have evolved we have become capable of great things and express who we are and what we feel in the arts and are capable of true altruism - yet we remain tribal, do what we feel we must for the continuation the survival the best interests of our tribe and because of this fear (and fear the motives of) outsiders.

We all hold prejudices – even you (it is evident in your writing) – which make it possible for those who ?lead us to rouse, stir up these prejudices into the passions of anger and fear and make us ready for the battlefield.

Is war always wrong – I would say it is? But is entering the field of conflict always wrong too? I would say no. What are we to do if we see mans injustice against fellow man in say civil war, one tribe intent on the annihilation of another? Can we sit back and do nothing because we are pacifists, in doing so are we not allowing this evil, this great wrong, this inhumanity to continue and as such ‘siding’ with the aggressor? How can that be right?

Our ancestors remain within us and as much as we are capable of great good we remain capable of great evil, evident in atrocities committed in the battlefield arena, some by those who would (in peacetime) be regarded as decent human beings.

Regrettably I see no end to conflict as we are inherently tribal…

Anna :o]

ADDY said...

A beautiful poem. Sadly I don't think mankind will ever learn. There is still too much greed and hate in the world for war to stop....most wars have always been about religion or land issues or pure hate. I would love to be proved wrong.

ayala said...

A lovely post, Anna.

Brian Miller said...

this is a wonderful post for armistice.and thanks for the intro to the poet as well...i will go check out some of his others...always good to see you anna...smiles sorry you had computer issues and I hope they are behind you....

remembering today

Frances Garrood said...

I love that poem, Anna. Thanks for reminding us of Owen.

Dr Erhumu - twitter@drerhumu said...

Reminds me of lyrics from an old song from my dad's records;"where have all the young men gone?" They have gone to war, and most are dead. A good one Anna.

stardust said...

I came here via Jenny Woolf. Regarding the Remembrance Day, I often see Flanders Fields by John McCrae quoted. I prefer Anthem for Doomed Youth by Owen because it contains no patriotic feel but unfathomable emotion of the mass soldiers killed in a minute. All the war memorials are not only to honor those who fought for the country but also (more importantly) as the reminder of the human follies.

marcel said...

God bless the departed and forgive us all.

Luke Prater said...

so extremely sad. And brilliant poetry. I love this one... known it for many years. Thank you for posting it here.