comparing poetry – “Anthem,for doomed youth” (wilfred owen) with the “Soldier” (rupert brooke)

Posted: August 15th, 2013

Comparison of Anthem for Doomed Youth Camp and Soldier

Anthem for Doomed Youth Camp

The poem Anthem for Doomed Youth Camp written by Wilfred Owen from a battlefield perspective is about his experiences in the First World War. All he saw was countless deaths that did not have to occur. In his poem, he talks of the suffering experienced by the soldiers and the agony their families went through because of death. The Anthem for Doomed Youth can therefore be considered as an anti-war campaign.

Structure and Theme

The Anthem for Doomed Youth Camp is a short poem written in two stanzas. The first stanza is on the soldiers, while the second stanza highlights the families of the soldiers. The poem consists of 14 lines, with 10 syllables per line, termed as a Petrarchian sonnet. Ordinarily, the central theme in a sonnet is romance (Skillion, 2001). Owen’s poem however, goes contrary to this convention, as the theme is the trauma experienced by soldiers during the First World War It describes the harsh treatment they were subjected, shot by rattling guns and dying like cattle (Lennarn, 2005). The deaths are not recognized, and so the soldiers are not accorded a proper burial, further demeaning their efforts to triumph in the war. The soldiers’ families back home are not for gotten either.


Owen uses a lot of symbolism to pass out his views on the war. The first line says, “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?” (Lennard, 2005). By comparing the death of the soldiers to the slaughtering of cattle, the simile has been used to describe the inhumane death that the soldiers went through. Moreover, the word “cattle” refers to many animals rather than one. In doing this, Owen’s message is that the soldiers are killed in large numbers, almost negating the value of their lives. Another aspect of symbolism is the personification of the guns. The guns have been described as being angry, an emotion experienced by living things (Owen, 2007). Personifying the guns portrays them as an important part of the war, more important than human life, seeing as humans have been said to die like cattle. Here, the importance of the guns lies in their ability to take away human life.

Irony has been brought out in the title itself. Anthems are associated with cheer and happiness, feelings we expect to have after reading this title. However, the poem itself brings out emotions of gloom, sadness and despair, a total contrast to its title. By using this, he is speaking against a war that leaders campaigned for. As mentioned above, sonnets are regarded to be romantic poems. Owen structures his poem as a sonnet but talks of war, which has no component of love. His views were based entirely on the grounds that the war was unnecessary, leading to unjustified deaths.

Another literacy style used is onomatopoeia, which is used to bring out the intensity of the war. Stuttering rifles is used to show that in the battlefield, bullets were always being shot; there were no moments when guns were not in use. Rapid rattle signifies the alertness of the soldiers. During the battle, they always had to be on the look out for the enemy and shoot promptly or else they would be killed. Alliteration has been used to achieve the effect of rhyming. The words rifle, rapid and rattle all begin with the letter “r”, urging a reader to read on (Parisi, 2005).


This poem was written by Rupert Brooke when the First World War was just about to end. His views therefore carry a message of hope for the post-war period. It talks of the achievements of soldiers in the war, as opposed to Owen who only focused on the deaths. The poem is also a 14 line Petrarchan sonnet with an opening and a closing stanza and rhymed using the Shakespearean abad cdcd form (Nicoll, 2002). Unlike Owen’s poem that goes contrary to what should be the theme in a sonnet, Brook maintains the theme. Love is brought out in the way he expresses his love for his country. He also romanticizes the war by implying that it was necessary.

Theme and Structure

Like Owen’s poem, it talks of the First World War and death. Unlike the Anthem for Doomed Youth, which talks of despair, the poem Soldier have hope, heroism and love as its running themes, just the way sonnets do. Owen’s poem surrounds the death of soldiers, while Brooke goes on to talk of the deaths as a sign of patriotism. Out of the respect and love he has for England, his country, he says that every land on which a soldier of the war was buried should be considered as England, “…there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England,” (Chan, 2002). Another way in which he praises England is in saying, “In that rich earth a richer dust concealed” (Chan, 2002). This phrase means that the dust of the English soldiers will enrich the soil in which they are buried.


Just like in the Anthem for Doomed Youth Camp, this poem also has a lot of symbolism. In the poem, we have the term the “Suns of home” (Nicoll, 2002). This is a representative of Brooke’s patriotism. He recognizes England as his country of birth, which made him what he was. He alludes to a period just before the end of the war. In the first line of the second stanza, it reads, “And think, this heart, all evil shed away,” (Nicoll, 2002). This symbolizes a change to embrace hope. It means that after the war, no trace of evil should be found lying in anyone’s heart. The line romanticizes war and death in the sense that after fighting, death is seen as a means of cleansing, like being washed by a river. After which all that should be left is happiness, laughter and gentleness (Nicoll, 2002). The poem hails martyrs. It considers it an honor for one to die while serving his country. This inspired more and more soldiers to fight in the war to ensure England’s victory. In this, he brings out the bigger picture of death. According to him, the war was not in vain and the soldiers who died should be remembered as brave.

Repetition in the poem is also significant. England has been used four times in the poem to help in emphasizing the theme of patriotism. England has been used not only in reference to the place where it lies geographically but also to the foreign fields where the soldiers’ bodies will rest. It has also been used in reference to a soldier. The poet says that foreign land will be considered as England by the virtue of the fact that the body of an English soldier was laid to rest there. In this sense, Brooke ceases to think of a soldier as English and thinks of him as England. With this kind of view, the soldiers who died are not forgotten by their loved ones as their memory still lives on in the land.


Both poets wrote on stories of the First World War. The difference comes in when looking at the periods of war in which they wrote. Owen was writing at a time when the war had just began, explaining why his poem only spelled doom. The beginning of the war was characterized by seemingly unnecessary loss of hundreds of thousands of life. In addition, at that time, all people felt was despair. The families of the soldiers only hoped against hope that their loved ones would return alive. Against this backdrop, Owen wrote the Anthem for Doomed Youth Camp to narrate just how much the war belittled the value of human life. Brooke however in Soldiers, wrote as the war was being concluded. Looking back at the war, he saw it as a necessary event in achieving England’s goal. In this light, he praises the soldiers for fighting it out to the end. He especially gives more praise to those that died in the war emphasizing that their efforts were not in vain.
























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