Anthem for Doomed Youth
Owen wrote the poem while in hospital recovering from shell shock. It was written with the help of fellow soldier, poet and patient Siegfried Sassoon, who suggested changing the title from "Anthem for Dead 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 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 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.
The poem, sung by the tenor, is in the first part - the Requiem aeternam - of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem written for, and performed at, the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral in England in 1963 following its rebuilding after German air raids during World War II.