Anthem for Doomed YouthI’m still reading Pat Barker’s beautiful Regeneration, drawing it out slowly. I’ve just read the scene in which Barker depicts Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon in Owen’s room at Craiglockhart discussing and revising what would become “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 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.
As an animal liberationist surrounded by the horrors of industrialized animal exploitation, I find the first line more rather than less poignant.