Comparing two war poems written by Wilfred Owen: Dulce et decorum Est
and Anthem for Doomed Youth.
In this essay I will be comparing two war poems written by Wilfred
Owen: ‘Dulce et decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. By
comparing the two I will be able to distinguish the fact that Wilfred
Owen is very anti-propaganda and why he feels so strongly about this.
The two poems have many similarities but also a fair amount of
differences, which I will be discussing in this essay.
The two poems have a strongly anti war message and in both the victims
of war are the young men who’s lives are wasted. ‘Dulce et decorum
Est’ uses the description of a gas attack to show how horrific the
reality of war is. Owen describes the victim with,
‘The white eyes writhing in his face…the blood…gargling from the
The physical horror of this helps to shape his message. It is
addressed to the propaganda poet Jessie Pope and tells her that it is
a lie to say that it is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.
A similar message in ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ describes the
slaughtered young men who ‘die as cattle’. Owen expresses his anger in
a set of contrasts between a real funeral and the lack of a funeral
for these young men. For example, instead of a service with a choir,
they only have ‘the shrill demented choirs of wailing shells’.
As you would expect, the tone and mood of both poems is deeply serious
as Owen has a strong message in both of them. However, they are
different. ‘Dulce et decorum Est’ expresses a great deal of horror and
anger. The horror is set aside for the terrible pain and terror of the
gas attack, not only for the victim but also for the poet. He writes,
‘In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, chocking, drowning.’
The horror he feels here is not the physical horror of being gassed,
as he is safe behind a gas mask, but it’s the awful feeling of what
might have been, and the feeling of guilt that he should have been the
lucky one. He is shocked and ‘helpless’ and in his nightmares the
victim ‘plunges’ at him as if reproaching him and attacking him at the
The other strong feeling in this poem is anger, especially at the evil
propaganda of Jessie Pope. We can tell this most strongly in the long
sentence of the final stanza which builds up to a dramatic, climax
with its attack on ‘the old lie’.
The tone of ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is less strong and much more sad
as we would expect from a poem that mourns the tragic deaths of men at
war. The language of this poem is full of gentle, and depressing
words, like ‘sad shires’ ‘holy glimmers’ and ‘tenderness’. Here Owen’s
tone doesn’t express his anger at the waste-of life but his sense of
The structure of the two poems is very different. ‘Dulce et decorum
Est’ is basically a narrative. It tells a story. Owen divides it into
three sections, which...