Dulce et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen

Today is 11th November, remembrance day. My feelings about war are complex. I feel quite emotional at the two minutes silence. It is moving to take time to think and reflect on those who have died in war with others around you. When I was studying for my GCSEs I remember writing about different presentations of war. I was deeply moved by stories such as Sophie’s Choice by William Styron and All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque). I also read the poetry of the First World War poets, particularly Wilfred Owen. This poem is graphic, disturbing and horrifying. The poetry of the First World War shocked me when I read it, but this is what I think of today; the horrors of war and to remember how many people experience them daily.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through the sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs.
And towards are distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind,
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. –
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high jest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum Est
Pro patria mori.


*”It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country” (Horace)

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