What has been included?
candles – “What candles may be held to speed them all?”. The word candles had been used because it represents hope and prayers. Candles are used as a way to appreciate the dead but also represent hope in the dark. It conveys that candles are being lit in the soldier’s names but also represents the hope that this war will end soon and so will the death.
“nor any voice of mourning save the choirs” This means that since everyman had been sent to war there were no funeral conductors(men back then) to even lead the funerals and too many to be done at once, meaning that so many men were not properly respected.
“can patter out their hasty orisons.” amongst the gunfire, soldiers barely had time to say their prayers to God and for each other. It conveys the image of men sitting in trenches hastily muttering out prayers as the gunfire around drowns out their orisons.
Simile – “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?” The use of a simile here compares the soldier’s life to the slaughter of cattle as if every man’s death is just process of war and the leaders do not think of the grief caused by them. It’s comparing the soldier’s life to the slaughter of cattle because similar to the farmer the leaders of war to shed any grief on the death of soldiers in the war, their deaths are just seen as another number.
Rhetorical question – “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?”. The use of a rhetorical question at the start of the poem used to catch the reader’s attention. The author asks the reader a question that has one answer so therefore they already relate to the poem and are lured into reading the poem to find out more.
Personification – “only the stuttering rifles rapid rattle”. The use of personification in this line is to gives the rifles a human characteristic of stuttering. From the front, this might be interpreted as the sound is repetitive and abnormal like the sound of a rifle shooting. But this could further mean that the guns are an extension of the soldiers, people tend to stutter when they are unsure or nervous. The soldiers are forced to shoot ordinary people like themselves and most likely this goes against their morals, so similar to how people stutter when they are unsure the stuttering of their guns could mean that they do not feel right about what they are doing.
passing-bells and those who die as cattle. The passing-bells is a way of respecting the dead, a bell that signals to the world that this person has died out of respect. Cattle are slaughtered carelessly without remorse or respect for their life. So these two ideas contrast each other by saying there is barely enough time ring the bell for all those slaughtered like cattle. It compares what the leaders in the war think, that death was just another number and what the towns and ordinary people think of the men’s deaths. The rich vs the poor.
candles and speed them all. Another way to the respect the dead is through the use of candles. A slow-burning controlled flame that people light to respect their loved ones, meant to move them on to their afterlife. candles are a slow process and it is saying that the deaths are coming too fast for the candles. The candles barely have time to melt by the time more news of death arrives.