What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

It’s the 100th anniversary of the bloodbath known as the Battle of the Somme.


My commute takes me through Waterloo Station, and this morning saw the strange appearance of what I first took for ghosts, but who were in fact men dressed as soldiers to silently mark the date. I felt a bit shy of taking photos, but the press and Twittersphere have made up for this.

There have been some great books on ‘The Great War’ and some not so great films, but it’s the poetry that we remember.

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.
(Wilfred Owen)

One response to “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

  1. Pingback: Honouring hundreds of thousands of victims of the brutal Somme battle | Marcus Ampe's Space

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