Much of the second half of the poem is dedicated to funeral rituals suffered by those families deeply affected by the First World War. The poem does this by following the sorrow of common soldiers in some of the bloodiest battles, either the battle of the Somme, or the battle of Passchendaele,[which?] of the 20th century. Written between September and October 1917, when Owen was a patient at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh recovering from shell shock, the poem is a lament for young soldiers whose lives were unnecessarily lost in the European War. The poem is also a comment on Owen's rejection of his religion in 1915.
While in the hospital, Owen met and became close friends with another poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Owen asked for his assistance in refining his poems' rough drafts. It was Sassoon who named the start of the poem "anthem", and who also substituted "dead", on the original article, for "doomed"; the famous epithet of "patient minds" is also a correction of his. The amended manuscript copy, in both men's handwriting, still exists and may be found at the Wilfred Owen Manuscript Archive on the world wide web. The revision process for the poem was fictionalized by Pat Barker in her novel Regeneration.
American composer Stephen Whitehead included an orchestral setting of "Anthem for Doomed Youth" as a movement in his orchestral piece "Three Laments on the Great War" for soloists and orchestra. The piece is scored as a duet for mezzo-soprano and bass/baritone with orchestra.
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