A commentary on a canonical war poem
‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is probably, after ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Wilfred Owen’s best-known poem. But like many well-known poems, it’s possible that we know it so well that we hardly really know it at all. In the following post, we offer a short analysis of Owen’s canonical war poem, and take a closer look at the language he employs.
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 for them from sad shires. Read the rest of this entry
A critical reading of a war poem
‘Arms and the Boy’ is one of the most powerful war poems written by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). In this post, we analyse Owen’s poem in terms of its overall meaning, but also offer a close reading of the poem’s language and imagery.
Arms and the Boy
Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh. Read the rest of this entry
10 classic war poems from Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and others
There are many great war poems out there and there have been a great number of popular war poets. Putting together a universal list of the best war poems raises all sorts of questions, but since such a list will always be a matter of personal taste balanced with more objective matters such as ‘influence’ and ‘popularity with anthologists’, we hope you’ll forgive the presumptuous title ‘best war poems’. In the list that follows, we’ve endeavoured to offer a mix of the canonical and the under-appreciated (‘Dreamers’ is not as famous in Sassoon’s oeuvre as ‘Everyone Sang’, but we think it’s a fine poem that deserves to be read by more people). We’ve also tried to include poems which we’ve found particularly interesting. To make it easier to select just ten great war poems, we’ve limited ourselves to the First World War (though several were written many decades later), but this is not to deny that there have been many stirring and successful poems written about other conflicts. As ever, we’d love to hear your suggestions for the best war poems which you’d recommend. If you want to read the poems listed below, we’ve provided a link (on the poem’s title) which will take you through to it. Read the rest of this entry