Sonnet vs. Sonnet

Round 2

Wilfred Owen      55% (37 votes)


Siegfried Sassoon      45% (30 votes)


For Owen

For Sassoon

Smooth Surrey handily defeated winsome Wyatt in last month's Round 1, which featured two sonnets about love. This month we move to two sonnets about war, World War I. For more poetry about the war and information about the poets, you may want to check out the Sonnet Central page of World War I sonnets or visit Professor Harry Rusche's Lost Poets of the Great War. Two books I've enjoyed about poets of this period are The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell and the novel Regeneration by Pat Barker..

Below are sonnets by two English poets (again, two friends), both of whom fought in the war. Which poem do you think best communicates the soldier's predicament and feelings about the war? Here's a chance to judge for yourself and see what others think--just place your vote below, and check back at the end of the month for the results! Feel free to add a comment--you may find yourself quoted when the results are archived.

Anthem for Doomed Youth
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 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.
Siegfried Sassoon

Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's tomorrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.
I see them in foul dugouts, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.