From what original work is the quotation "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" derived?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One author mentions the quote and its original author in dialogue in his novel The Wasted Island (by Eimar O'Duffy). Stephen and Christopher are speaking, and Stephen asks:

Is it a sweet and proper thing to die for your country?

Christopher explains that those who come from the same country ("fatherland") are like brothers and sisters, and they must stand together. If someone attacks one of them, the others should be prepared to fight and, if necessary, die to defend that person. Christopher continues:

"The safety of each one depends on the safety of them all..."

"Then Horace was telling the truth?"

"For once..."

Horace was the original author of the sentiment that is widely translated as:

It’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country

It is found in Horace's Odes, specifically III.2.13.

These words are also associated with Joseph Warren:

Words attributed to [Warren] prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775:

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” (Horace, Odes III.2.13)

Perhaps the most famous literary allusion to Horace's quotation is found in Wilfred Owen's World War I poem of the same name.

Another now famous quotation from Horace is taken from Book III of the Odes, which was used by Wilfred Owen in his famous poem "Dulce et Decorum Est."

Owen's translation and subsequent commentary demonstrate his strong disagreement with the sentiment. 

“It is sweet and meet to die for one’s country,” and he expostulates sarcastically, “Sweet! And decorous!

One can understand why he takes issue with this patriotic sentiment after reading his poem that describes how the glorified stories reported at home about the war horrifically inaccurate compared to the devastating realities of the battlefield. For example, he describes death by the poisonous gas used by the enemy:

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.

The quote can be contentious regarding one's personal feelings toward dying in war. Horace would have written it as a rallying cry (used this way also by Warren). However, Owen—and Hemingway (among others)—notes that there is nothing sweet about dying in war. In fact, Owen calls the quote, at the end of his poem, "the old Lie." He notes that this kind of propaganda used to recruit soldiers (e.g., the glory of battle) is far from the truth.