Drafting 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'

In autumn 1917 Wilfred Owen was treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart hospital in Edinburgh, where his doctor encouraged him to write poetry as part of his therapy.

With help from fellow patient Siegfried Sassoon, Owen wrote one of his most famous poems: 'Anthem for Doomed Youth'. Several of the original handwritten drafts have survived, showing how he repeatedly changed and redrafted earlier versions.

Watch how Owen transformed the poem in this one-minute video reconstruction, based on his original drafts.

Drag the handle to see Owen's changes to the opening lines of the poem.

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.