Write a letter to Sassoon or Owen telling them that their vision, their ideas are still sorely needed in the world today.
Dear Wilfred Owen,
As a part of my Twentieth Century Literature course I am undertaking for the rest of the year, I have had the honour in studying your poem, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”. I studied this poem for the first time 3 years ago when I was a high-school English student, but reading it at a university level has given the whole poem a new and more-in-depth meaning which I appreciate. The poem, and your views, vision and ideas within the poem are believed to be relevant today.
The opening lines paint a picture of death to the audience. When I read, I hear loud noises and I see a dark environment. But at the same time, there is nothing but silence.
“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
– Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifle’s rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.”
I believe that there was a time where the common cause of death was due to natural causes and old age, but unfortunately, death’s these days are also a result of human behaviour; war, attacks, fights, assault and the list goes on… but the burial of death is different entirely; although the passing of a loved one can be rather traumatic, the burial has been a time of mourning the life that is gone, but celebrating the life that has been lived. Some would say, if not most, that funerals are somewhat therapeutic. Candles, bells, family members, flowers, letters, tears… all these things are what help people to mourn loss and to let go. But the reason why in the midst of all the loud noises, the alliteration of the “R” letter and the overall harshness tone to the stanza seems silent to me, is because there has been a death without the proper mourning stage; there has been the trauma without the therapy. These soldiers did not receive bells, flowers or a proper burial. But instead, their passing bells were the monstrous anger of guns.
“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 bulges 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 question of candles helping the soldiers continue on into the next life strikes me. It is as if the horror of war inevitably brings the uncommon feeling of experiencing death, to an everyday routine.
I appreciate the long-lasting wisdom behind this poem. Despite the lengthy period of time from today to whence it was written, I believe millions of people around the world are experiencing this horror today. With all the attacks, all the wars, all the murders and the loss of loved ones; it is unfortunately a reality today that not everyone gets to experience a proper mourning. I believe the last line of the poem expresses this exactly,
“Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds”
Holding candles to the bodies that have past not only is therapeutic for the living, but it is symbolic of helping the spirit’s to find their way into the next life. Flowers, similarly to candles, also represent the passing of life; how the life they live is so beautiful, but there will be a day where the life has gone.
Owen, I thank you for this poem. I believe you have encapsulated the true emotion of what it is not to be able to mourn a death in its proper manner. You have perfectly annotated the drawing down of blinds to represent that the living remove the light by closing the blinds, and the dead must now find their afterlife on their own. It is sad that this is a reality still to this day. A strong part of me believes that if every human being were to read and understand this poem, the world would be a much more peaceful place.
I have chosen the photo of the candles specifically because one candle is clearly visible whilst so many are blurry. I believe this represents a world where a few deaths are mourned correctly and millions are not because we simply did not get a chance too.