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.
Some of Owen’s lines make it hard not to think of the 3,350 that the International Organisation for Migration believe have drowned so far attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year. The number of drownings so far in 2015 already exceed the total for the whole of 2014. With crossings continuing into the autumn and winter months for the first time and with the harsh cold of winter coming to those struggling to journey by land through the Balkans, the numbers of those drowning and freezing only seems likely to increase.