Veterans Day sonnet: “Anthem for Doomed Youth”

Wilfred Owen was one of the most eloquent English poets on the subject of war. He served in the British Army during World War I. On November 4, 1918, he was shot and killed. News of his death reached his parents exactly one week later, as the Armistice bells were ringing. November 11 is Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), now commemorating veterans of all wars.

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.

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 good-byes.

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.

Photo: Memorials for veterans in a cemetery. AP

 


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