Form and structure

Anthem for Doomed Youth is a sonnet.

It has the octect / sestet structure of the Italian Petrarchan sonnet, but is loosely based on the rhyme scheme of the English Shakespearean sonnet.

The sonnet form - often used to praise or elevate - seems ironic in its use here as the poem is a lament for the brutal deaths of young innocent men.

The poem is structured as an octet and a sestet. The structure of the sestet mirrors that of the octet in that both stanzas open with a rhetorical question which is then answered by the speaker in the following lines.

The octet introduces the reader to the brutal environment of the trenches. An onslaught of sensual imagery describes and creates the harsh sounds which would have surrounded the men as they fought and died.

The octet culminates in a reference to the “bugles calling for them from sad shires”. This reminds us of the towns left grieving for the men who will never come home. This poignant final line of the octet, moving from the noise of war, links us to the silence of the sestet, with the volta signalling a move from the sounds of war to the funeral practices associated with Christianity.

Owen asks “What candles may be held to speed them all?” He responds by contrasting various familiar religious practices with the realities of a lonely death in the trenches.

The final poignant rhyming couplet slows the pace of the poem by concluding with an evening image of “slow dusk” and “a drawing down of blinds”, symbolising the deaths of the men in the trenches.