How does this poem make you feel or what does it make you think about?  Dulce et Decorum Est Wilfred Owen 1 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 2 Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed...

How does this poem make you feel or what does it make you think about?

 

Dulce et Decorum Est Wilfred Owen

1 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

2 Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

3 Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,

4 And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

5 Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

6 But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;

7 Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

8 Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

 

9 Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling

10 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

11 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

12 And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--

13 Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

14 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

 

15 In all my dreams before my helpless sight

16 He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

 

17 If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

18 Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

19 And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

20 His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,

21 If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

22 Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

23 Bitter as the cud

24 Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--

25 My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

26 To children ardent for some desperate glory,

 

27 The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

28 Pro patria mori.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:  it is right and honorable to die for one’s country.

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This poem reminds those who have read Erich Maria Remarque's World War I novel, All Quiet on the Western Front of the tragic results that occurred for the young men who, in their chauvanism for Germany, enlisted only to find that the noble ideas of the professors at school did not exist on the battlefield  Thus, Remarque's novel, like Owen's poem, in its imagery and theme concerns itself with the pity of war, rather than the glory. In a similarly ironic fashion, Stephen Crane's "War is Kind" about the young Americans', on both sides, dying in battle expresses the waste and futility of war. 

Owens's title "Dulce et Decorum Est,"  from the Roman philosopher and critic, Horace, means It is sweet and meet to die for one's country. However, Sweet and decorous! is contradicted by the horrors of the mustard gas which dealt a brutal death to young men who had not yet begun their adult lives. And, in the bitterest of ironies, the poet, Wifred Ownes, was himself killed one week before the Armistice.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning....

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--

As the poet addresses the reader, the poem becomes especially poignant in its appeal to not tell the children the lie about dying for one's country:

ardent for some desperate glory...

the lie that Dulce et decorum est

Pro Patria mori.

The soldiers are demoralized, made older than they should be; the image of the dying soldier contradicts completely the glory of war. Yet, the poem of Owens is not sentimental, but rather "astringent" as one critic terms its telling of the ironies of war in sonnet form.

 

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