Anthem for Doomed Youth

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Anthem for Doomed Youth
by Wilfred Owen
"Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen (English).jpg
Original manuscript of Owen's "Anthem for Doomed Youth", showing Sassoon's revisions
Anthem for Doomed Youth

"Anthem for Doomed Youth" is a poem written in 1917 by Wilfred Owen. It incorporates the theme of the horror of war.


Like a traditional Petrarchan sonnet, the poem is divided into an octave and sestet. However, its rhyme scheme is neither that of a Petrarchan nor English sonnet, but irregular: ABABCDCD:EFFEGG. Even its indentations are irregular, not following its own rhyme scheme.

Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals suffered by those families deeply affected by the First World War. The poem does this by following the sorrow of common soldiers in some of the bloodiest battles, either the battle of the Somme, or the battle of Passchendaele,[which?] of the 20th century. Written between September and October 1917, when Owen was a patient at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh recovering from shell shock, the poem is a lament for young soldiers whose lives were lost in the European War. The poem is also a comment on Owen's rejection of his religion in 1915.


While in the hospital, Owen met and became close friends with another poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Owen asked for his assistance in refining his poems' rough drafts. It was Sassoon who named the start of the poem "anthem", and who also substituted "dead", on the original article, with "doomed"; the famous epithet of "patient minds" is also a correction of his. The amended manuscript copy, in both men's handwriting, still exists and may be found at the Wilfred Owen Manuscript Archive on the world wide web.[1] The revision process for the poem was fictionalized by Pat Barker in her novel Regeneration.[2]


The poem is among those set in the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten.

During live performances of the song "Paschendale", Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson often recites the first half of the poem.

The title of BBC WW1 drama The Passing Bells derives from the first line of the poem: "What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?"[3]

The third album by British band The Libertines is named Anthems For Doomed Youth, and features a song of the same name.

American composer Stephen Whitehead included an orchestral setting of "Anthem for Doomed Youth" as a movement in his orchestral piece "Three Laments on the Great War" for soloists and orchestra. The piece is scored as a duet for mezzo-soprano and bass/baritone with orchestra.


  1. ^ "The First World War Poetry Digital Archive". University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
  2. ^ Joyes, Kaley (2009). "Regenerating Wilfred Owen: Pat Barker's revisions". Mosaic. 42 (3): 169–83. ISSN 0027-1276.
  3. ^ "The Passing Bells - an interview with scriptwriter Tony Jordan". BBC. 5 November 2014.

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