Language

The title of the poem makes Owen’s intentions clear. It was suggested by his fellow war poet, Siegfried Sassoon.

The word ‘anthem’ has two meanings. It can refer to a rousing song used by a certain group or team - think of football or national anthems for example. It can also refer to music set to a religious reading which is sung by a choir during some Christian services.

This double meaning could be used ironically here as the poem rejects the rousing propaganda that glorified war, and also questions the usefulness of religious ceremonies and practices when soldiers die.

The word ‘doomed’ suggests that these men are already dead and implies little hope before we even read the poem.

Finally, the word ‘youth’ seems used to remind us how young and innocent these soldiers were, making their futile deaths all the more poignant .

The poem opens with a disturbing simile comparing “these who die” to cattle. This dehumanises the men, making them seem like animals being slaughtered. Again it makes a mockery of the jingoistic poetry used to glamorise the war.

The sounds of the weapons in the octet are made more threatening because of Owen’s use of personification. The “monstrous anger” of the guns emphasises the hostile surroundings in the trenches.

Owen uses a range of sound effects in the octet to recreate the harsh noises of war. Onomatopoeic words such as “stuttering” and “wailing” and the alliterative “rifles’ rapid rattle” create an aural picture which puts the reader right in the dramatic battle scenes.