Anthem of the doomed youth.docx - Line 1 What passing-bells...

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Line 1 What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? People are dying and our speaker asks us, what sound is there to mark their deaths? Those "passing-bells"? They're church bells, which are rung to mark someone's death (when they have passed away). Already this phrase has introduced religious imagery to the poem, but it's contrasted with the horrific experience on the front lines of war, where men die like cattle. And where we can't imagine any church bells are ringing. Did you notice that our speaker says "these" instead of "those"? Why do you think that might be? "Those" gives a sense of distance to the poem. You might use that word to talk about people who are far away, or whom you feel separate from. If you use "these," it's as though you're talking about someone who's right there in the room with you. So with this very slight matter of word choice , our speaker has deliberately brought the soldiers that much closer to us. It's as if we're on the battlefield, seeing those soldiers falling right and left. And what are these soldiers compared to? Cattle. It's not exactly the nicest simile we've ever heard. But it does pack a big punch. The phrase "die as cattle" suggests slaughter. He's saying that something about these deaths is especially terrible—it's inhuman, it's treating soldiers like animals. Cattle come in herds, right? It seems a lot of these men are dying all at once. All in all we've got a pretty bleak start to what will probably be a pretty bleak poem. One last thing, Shmoopers. Read this line aloud to yourself. Do you notice anything about the way it sounds? A rhythm? A meter? "What pass ing- bells for these who die as cat tle." There's a little da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM action, with an extra "da" at the end of the line. When we see this rhythm in poetry (five da-DUMs in a row), we call it iambic pentameter . In this case, it's got an extra syllable at the end, just for fun. If you're curious about meter in this poem, be sure to check out our " Form and Meter " section, and keep a weather eye out for more da-DUMs as you continue reading. There will be a lot. Line 2 Only the monstrous anger of the guns. It's nice of our speaker to answer his own question for us. The only thing that marks their deaths is the angry sound of more guns. Gunfire is just about the opposite of pleasant church bells. That word "monstrous" is a pretty big and heavy word, we'd say, especially to load on top of "anger."
We mean, anger is already a pretty violent and scary thing. So "monstrous anger" means that something about these guns is terrible enough to put regular anger to shame. And now we know for sure, if we hadn't already guessed, that this poem is talking about war. After all, where else would men die like cattle to the sound of monstrously angry guns?

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