What is the formal structure of "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen?

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The poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" by World War I poet Wilfred Owen does not adhere to any sort of formal poetic structure. Its four-stanza structure is irregular, as the first stanza contains 8 lines, the second stanza 6 lines, the third stanza 2 lines, and the final stanza 12 lines. A rhyme scheme does exist, but it too is irregular, overlapping stanzas in a rhythmic yet slightly unpredictable manner.

The irregularity of the poem's structure contributes greatly to the experience of reading the poem. It is disorienting to read, much like the mustard gas that is the central image of the image was disorienting to the men who suffered from the effects of the poison during the war. As well, the imagery of the drowning man, helplessly grasping at anything, grabs hold of the reader unexpectedly, in his own 2-line stanza, highlighting the plight of the individual in this war that killed en masse.

Though the poem has no formal structure, that is not to say that the irregular structure that can be identified is meaningless. In fact, the irregularity is part of the point and the experience that the poet desires to communicate to his readers.

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This poem can also be viewed as two sonnets. The first two stanzas, one of eight lines, an octave, and one of six, a sestet,could be seen loosely as a Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet though not in classical form as Owen does not strictly adhere to that rhyme scheme. The second portion of the poem is similar to a Shakespearean (English) sonnet, which consists of three quatrains (four line stanzas) and one couplet (two line stanza),though the stanzas are not broken into visible quatrains, but instead two stanzas, one of two lines and one of twelve lines.This may be one interesting way to look at this poem's structure.

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There is no formal structure for this poem.  It is a 28-line poem that does contain some rhyming; the rhyme scheme is one that follows the pattern of abab cdcd efef, etc.; however, they are not presented in quatrains. The lines are broken up. There is more useful information at these two links:

http://www.enotes.com/dulce-et-decorum-est-salem/dulce-et-decorum-est-9650000186

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210188

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