Wilfred Owen

Carl Offner (offner@HPC.PKO.DEC.COM)
Mon, 8 Sep 1997 08:20:28 -0400

The poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen that Randy Fertel
included in his recent message was included in Benjamin Britten's War
Requiem, which is based on Owen's poetry mixed in with the Latin

After hearing Britten, I find it impossible to read this poem without
hearing the music he set it to. Britten made very heavy use of
word-painting in this piece. In the first stanza the music is
bitterly sarcastic--see the way he sets "prayers or bells" and
"shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells", for instance. The last
stanza is, as Randy said, quite transformed, and the last line in
particular ("And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.") is a

Britten was a pacifist; I am not. But his War Requiem (which came out
shortly before the major U.S. involvement in Vietnam--and *that* I
opposed) is one of those pieces that just doesn't go away--it keeps
eating at you. I suppose that the ambivalence that one inevitably
feels about this subject is similar to the ambivalence we have seen in
the recent discussion in this thread.

--Carl Offner