What is the background of the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est"?

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wilfred Owen's "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is a key work in the pantheon of poems written during World War I which center on the grim realities of the Great War. This background information is fairly obvious, especially when one considers the violent imagery and plain, honest illustration of life on a battlefield. What may be less obvious, however, is the fact that by the end of the poem, Owen is directly appealing to famed propaganda artists at the time who glorify the experience of the war. Owen is disgusted with these artists' grotesque naivety and their intentional misleading of England's youth. Indeed, the violent and horrific imagery at the onset of the poem reinforces the final lines in which he appeals to jingoistic poets: "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory,/ The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori." Owen skewers these poets, and chastises them for telling the "old Lie."

I pulled my textual support from The Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry edited by Edna Longley.