Dear Mr Wilfred Owen,
May I begin by saying that I have the utmost respect and adoration for your poetry pieces; they are extremely riveting and truthful. The first time I had read anything you had written was in 2015 in high school. Something about the connection you made between people, who would have been around the same age I was, dying from extremely well thought out propaganda and a duty to one’s country which I believed to be astonishing.
I would like to start by commenting on one of your works that have spoken to me, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. I was shocked at the title. I had to read it twice to then realise the irony behind the statement. Anthem is a song, a chant, a praise for the Doomed Youth, the young people who were destined to die. Your poem reveals the frank dehumanisation of soldiers and how the world sees it but turns a blind eye to it. The opening line states;
“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.”
The line leaves a lasting rhetorical for whoever shall read it. Firstly it gives a sense of pretentiousness, Comparing human lives to those of dying animals. Vividly expanding one’s imagination to “passing-bells” which are similar to church bells, as they won’t be strung at the deaths of the soldiers. As these individuals are the doomed youth, which is fated to fall in great numbers like cattle stock. As cryptic as the first line may be it pushes the idea that war is only a means to an end for these young males. Your extreme use of onomatopoetic language creates a sensory image for people who don’t understand the true environment of war.
“Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.”
This quote makes readers recognise the brutality of the disturbance of war. The harsh consonance, as well as alliteration, formulates a deafening pain. The sensory imagery is used alert our minds. ” rifles’ rapid rattle”. Owen uses this as a remembrance of the noise and the reoccurring feeling that it creates. In like manner, the loud and hard hitting sounds are being contrasted to the way loved ones pray for their safety the next line, “Can patter out their hasty orisons.” opens up a difference scene, a ‘snapshot’ scene of the families and communities back home waiting and prayer for the ones they love.
“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.”
This stanza shows the final goodbye from the young soldiers. Owen portrays the doomed youth in this slight moment the realisation of what they have got themselves into. That they are now saying goodbye to the world they’ve always known, “Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes”. Although in their last moments they aren’t celebrated they are just gone. It is recognition that they are missing out on an important rite, a funeral procession. Leaving the world they know nothing to be remembered for.
The general community is commonly blindsided to the horrific events, which take place during a war. The front row seat of war isn’t filled with every person on the planet but for these chosen few, from the moment the soldiers arrive their lives change. They have to watch anger, betrayal and death right before their very eyes but most importantly don’t get any proper religious praise in the form of a funeral or any praise for that matter for risking their lives to protect and be patriarchs for their country. Your poem recognises the moments that both parties the soldiers and the family members are left without and I would like to thank you for sharing your experiences through your writing.
I’m truly glad I have received the opportunity to write to you!
20th Century Literature 2016