Anthem For Doomed Youth.
The redrafting of this poem with the help and encouragement of Siegfried Sassoon, whom Owen met while convalescing in Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart Hospital in August 1917, marked a turning point in Owen’s life as a poet. A remarkable writing period was just beginning. In sonnet form, ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH is an elegy, a lament for the dead, a judgement on Owen’s experience of war rather than an account of the experience itself. Doomed youth is right. These were young men, some very young.
Lines 1-8 (the octet) contain a catalogue of the sounds of war, the weapons of destruction - guns, rifles, shells - linked, ironically, to religious imagery, until in line 8 we switch from the fighting front to Britain’s "sad shires" where loved ones mourn. The tone now drops from bitter passion to rueful contemplation, the mood sombre, the pace slower, until by line 14 the poem quietly closes with "the drawing down of blinds".
In this octet the devilish clamour of trench warfare is carefully set against the subdued atmosphere of church. These religious images: passing bells, orisons (prayers), voice of mourning, choirs, candles, holy glimmers, symbolise the sanctity of life - and death - while suggesting also the inadequacy, the futility, even meaninglessness, of organised religion measured against such a cataclysm as war. To "patter out" is to intone mindlessly, an irrelevance…