by Wilfred Owen
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.
Owen fought at the Somme and was admitted to the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh in 1917 after suffering PTSD (diagnosed as shell shock at the time) where he met Siegfried Sassoon, who helped him channel his war flashbacks into poetry. He returned to fight and was killed in action a week before the war ended, in November 1918.