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The speaker in this person is a World War I soldier who witnessed another soldier's horrible death because he did not get his gas mask on in time when the "hooting" gas shells fell. Inhaling the caustic chlorine gas destroys his lungs and causes him to drown in fluid from his own lungs. Other soldiers can only watch helplessly.
Observing this horrid scene after experiencing the exhausting, miserable march that he describes at the beginning of the poem has embittered the speaker. He declares that Horace's adage "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country," a translation of the title, is wrong. Clearly this speaker strongly disapproves of war, which he depicts as a hellish experience.
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