The Linnet's Wings The Sorrow - Page 29

1918-2018 The old lie is of course the lie that enables the war to continue and keep the British public in ignorance of what was really happening: My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. Contrary to what some have asserted, Owen was not a bitter, jaundiced pacifist. poet excusing his own fear. He believed in the cessation of the war, but he held to his 'duty.' He had already experienced terrifying events, when he was trapped for days on a railway embankment taking shelter from German artillery fire, lying on the ground surrounded by the remains of a popular fellow officer. This led to the shell-shock that he was being treated for Craiglockhart hospital. His doctor, Arthur Brock, encouraged Owen in his writing for therapeutic reasons and this approach paid off. Against the advice of Sassoon, although possibly inspired by Sassoon's own example of bravery in the field of battle, Owen requested discharge from hospital to return to the front. Sassoon urged him to accept a medical discharge instead. In October 1918 he led a unit of his men to storm several enemy positions at Joncourt and for his courage and leadership he was awarded the Military Cross. Owen said, 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. 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 good-byes. 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. It was Sassoon who suggested the title of this poem. The suggestion of an anthem, and "shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells” and Owen's use of harsh sounds and onomatopoeic words; “stuttering” and “wailing” and the alliteration of “rifles’ rapid rattle” all create a ghastly vision of dehumanisation, of men slaughtered like cattle underlines his lived experience, the pity of war. 29