soldier crawling on hands and knees through a trench under a cloud of poisonous gas with dead soldiers in the foreground and background

Dulce et Decorum Est

by Wilfred Owen

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Dulce Et Decorum Est Analysis Line By Line

Explain the meanings of the stanza in "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

The poem is an anti-war poem. It reflects the reality of the war and the futility of war in general. The poem is written by a soldier who has experienced such horrors and he wants to express his feelings. In the end, Owen asks us not to glorify war by calling it “sweet and proper” when it is nothing but agonizing death, suffering and destruction. He says that there can never be any glory or honour in such death, loss, agony and destruction.

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The poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen was written by the poet when he was hospitalized with a stress disorder from fighting in World War I in 1917. Owen was anti-war; consequently, his poetry was intended to emphasize the horrors of war for the soldiers. Sadly, in 1918, Owen died one week before the end of the war from gunfire wounds.

The title of the poem is a Latin phrase used sardonically by the poet. The phrase was used during the war, particularly in England. It suggests that the war was to be glorified because the meaning of the phrase is “It is sweet and right.” In other words, it is a great honor to fight and die for a person’s country.

Summary of stanzas

1st stanza: The soldiers are physically and mentally exhausted. Using a simile the soldiers are compared to beggars carrying their bags. Cursing their plight, the soldiers are sick and crippled. The battle is about to end for the day, so the soldiers turn and begin to slog through the mud walking back to the trenches. Many of the men walked sleeping. Some of the soldiers had lost their boots; however, they hobbled on with bloody feet. Everyone was crippled; without sight; exhausted; and deaf to the endless bombs that were dropped behind them.

2nd stanza: The narrator is a part of the experience. He too is a soldier. During World War I, the Germans began chemical warfare by dropping mustard gas on their enemies. . It was deadly unless the soldier had a gas mask and was able to get it on his face immediately. The gas is detected. Someone tells them to get their masks on…the soldier fumbles around fitting the mask on just before the gas gets to him. Unfortunately, someone does not get his face covered inhales the gas. His body is immediately devastated by the gas. He begins to yell, stumble, struggle as if he is on fire…the narrator can see the man through the fog and thick green light… The narrator as though he were under green water could see the man unable to breathe. The gas causes blisters which closes the airway when it is inhaled. The man felt as though he were drowning in his own blood.

3rd stanza: The narrator tells the reader that this is a flashback to a time during the war. He relives this scene in his dreams or nightmares. He feels helpless to give aid to the man who in his dream runs toward the narrator trying to talk, choking, and strangling.

4th stanza: In his dream, he sees again the wagon that the man’s body was thrown into. He sees his face, and his eyes rolled back in his head. His blood gurgled from his failed lungs. His lungs might have been cancerous…the body becomes a mass of blisters and horrid sores. Here is what the poem has been building toward:

My friend, you would not tell with such high...

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zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum Est Pro patria mori

Speaking directly to the reader and making the point of the poem, the narrator suggests that if the people could see these things, they might not speak to their children with such enthusiasm about the wonders of war. In the end, the poet says: Do not tell your children the old lie---How sweet and proper it is to die for one’s country. Owen’s disdain for the war and the horrors that the soldiers experienced becomes evident throughout his poetry.

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What is the overall message of the poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen?

In "Dulce et Decorum Est," Owen rejects the commonly accepted idea that fighting for your country is a glorious and heroic thing to do. To emphasize this message, Owen portrays the harsh realities of life on the battlefield. In the first stanza, for example, he depicts soldiers as exhausted ("drunk with fatigue"), injured ("bent double"), and generally very weary from war, like "old beggars."

In addition, Owen dispels the myth of war's glory by describing in detail the realities of a gas attack. His use of imagery is designed to shock the reader by appealing to all of the senses. Owen talks about the "gargling" sound of blood, for instance, and describes the "incurable sores" left behind. 

In the final lines of the poem, Owen goes one step further by calling the idea of glory in battle an "old lie." His damning indictment is now complete. 

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What is the overall message of the poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen?

"Dulce Et Decorum Est" is an anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen, a soldier in the British Army during World War I. The title of the poem is derived from a poem by Horace, an ancient Roman, who claimed that it was "sweet and fitting (dulce et decorum)" to die for one's country. This statement was being echoed by many British politicians in Owen's day, and it is his intent with this poem to prove that it was, as he flatly says, a "lie." He describes the drudgery and misery of war, opening the poem by describing soldiers slogging through mud "knock-kneed, like old beggars under sacks," coughing "like hags." As they are slowly marching along, a gas shell explodes nearby, and as the men fumble to put on their gas masks, they are horrified to realize that one of their number has failed to get his mask on. Owen then describes, in equally vivid language, the horrors of the man's death struggle as he thrashes about "like a man in fire or lime" and drowns as his lungs fill with fluid. The scene is terrifying, and Owen tells the reader that if they had witnessed such carnage, they would not tell the "old lie" that it was sweet and fitting to die for one's country. With these lines, he sends a powerful antiwar message through the eyes of one who has witnessed the worst of war.

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Critically analyze "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Robert Owen.

Robert Owen's poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is an influential and moving poem about the horrors of World War I, known at the time of the writing as the Great War. The poem marked a departure from traditional poems about war such as Felicia Dorothea Hemans' "Casabiana" and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Such poems glorified war and honored the sacrifice warriors made without focusing on the trauma the soldiers experienced. Owen, who had himself seen battle and was hospitalized for what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder, began writing a new type of war poetry that was brutally honest. This poem was specifically written as an answer to the jingoistic war poetry of the time that was being written by writers like Jessie Pope, the "my friend" of line 25. The poem describes trench warfare and an attack of mustard or chlorine gas and the death of a soldier who failed to get his gas mask on in time. The poem's format, which uses a very traditional iambic pentameter with alternately rhyming lines, is unorthodox because of its heavy use of enjambment and caesura and a number of places where the rhythm deliberately falters. Enjambment, where there is no punctuation at the end of the line and the thought continues onto the next line, and caesura, where there is a hard stop in the middle of the line, work together to make the poem sound less "poetic." The rhymes are less obvious, and the rhythm becomes less sing-songy. That effect combined with repetition of very hard or harsh, guttural consonants such as "d," "k," and "g" allows the sound of the poem to match the harsh reality that is being described. The emotions evoked by the poem are powerful. Owen uses sparse yet descriptive wording to create unforgettable images in readers' minds. Lines like "He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning," "And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, / His hanging face," and "bitter as the cud/ Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues" are some of the most evocative constructions in all English poetry and can hardly be read without a lump forming in one's throat, tears springing to one's eyes, or a churning sensation arising in one's stomach. The poem ends dramatically by repeating the Latin saying that typified the jingoistic and traditionalist war poetry: "How beautiful and right it is to die for one's country." Owen calls it a "Lie," with irrefutable credibility, and ends the poem with an unfinished line, symbolizing the untimely end of so many of England's finest young men who lost their lives in the war. Unfortunately, Owen himself was one of the men cut off prematurely; he died in action a week before the war ended. We will never know what additional contributions Owen could have made to literature and poetry had he survived, but we are indebted to him for his bravery in both his military service and in his writing. 

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Discuss the literary devices, specifically metaphors, used in "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

Wilfred Owen, a British war poet, wrote about World War I.  His poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” was written in 1917 while he was in the hospital recovering from shell shock.  Ironically, Owen died in battle one week before the war ended in 1918.  He was twenty-five years old; however, his war experiences matured him far beyond his age. 

The title of the poem translates to “it is sweet and proper.” Sardonically, the poet means exactly the opposite.  The purpose of his poem is to warn the government and those who make war that men are dying and for what reason.  In addition, war is not honorable and noble.  It is death and maiming.

In the poem, a flashback approach is used.  This is the poet looking back at a terrrible memory.l The poet employs several literary devices to prove his assertion: there is no glory in war.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks

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

1st stanza


The men who are returning from the battle are described as old beggars with sacks

Their coughing is like hags [Old women who suffer with disease]


The men are so tired that they appear drunk with fatigue [as they stumble through the mud]

2nd stanza


There was a man who during a gas attack seems to be floundering like a person who is on fire or sipping a lime

The man who has swallowed the gas is as a man under water drowning.  This man received the alert to the gas too late.  The stanza is an extended metaphor portraying the pain he feels as he swallows the gas:

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

3rd stanza


And in the third stanza the metaphor continues when the poet admits that he dreams about the gassed man who plunges toward him guttering, choking, and drowning… The drowning feeling described when a person dies by taking water in his lungs compares to the man who dies after he takes in the gas.  .The reader then understands not only the speaker’s pain because he can do nothing to help the person who was poisoned but the terrifying effects of the mustard gas used in this war. 

4th stanza


The man who is drowning from the gas has his face hanging like the devil who no longer likes sin which describes the look of the dead or dying man

The man’s lungs are like a cancer and bitter as a cow’s cud.  The lungs suffer just as though they have cancer.


The man’s tongue is innocent

In the end of the poem, the poet quotes what he declares is the lie that has been told to young men before they go into the military and then into war:

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

Obviously, Wilfred Owen disagreed with this phrase by describing his gruesome portrayal of the soldier’s life.

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Please analyse the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

This famous poem was written about the experiences of its author during World War I and how, in particular, the poet's wartime experience caused him to question and to challenge outright many of the assumptions that people had at home concerning war and how noble and wonderful it was. The title of the poem immediately shows this emphasis, as it is the initial part of a Latin quote that means "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." Note how Owen creates a dramatic contrast between this title and the opening of the poem, which is worthy of some attention:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughling like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And toward our distant rest began to trudge.

We have in our mind an impression of what soldiers should look like, dressed smartly in their uniforms and bravely marching together towards battle to perform their heroic exploits. Owen, by contrast, presents us with a band of exhausted soldiers going away from the front line, retreating, who have been completely dehumanised by their experience of war. They are described as "beggars under sacks" and "coughing like hags." There is no sense of bravery or heroism in their figures at all.

The episode of someone being gassed and the horrific visual way in which we are allowed to see his "white eyes writing in his face" and hear the sounds of his "froth-corrupted lungs" conveys the true horror of this war. This soldier did not meet his death engaging the enemy. He is killed by an accident without seeing an opponent, and dies a gruesome death. The change of person in the poem augments the power of Owen's argument, as he moves from third person to first person and then finally addresses the reader:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in...

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.

Above all, this change of person forces us to become involved in the action of the poem and makes us question to what extent our attitudes of war reflect "the old Lie" and how our impressions may impact "children ardent for some desperate glory." This poem therefore represents a plea to understand the true horror of war.

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Explain the final three stanzas of the poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

The first stanza of the poem describes the ongoing misery, deprivation, and physical pain of the soldiers fighting in the trenches during World War I. The second stanza, beginning with the line: "Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!" involves a shift of pace and focus from ongoing misery to the sudden panic ensuing from a mustard gas attack. From when the shells are spotted, the soldiers have very little time to equip their gas masks and avoid inhaling the mustard gas. In the poem, most of the soldiers manage to put on their masks in time, but one is too slow and ends up inhaling the gas. 

The third and fourth stanzas describe in excruciating detail the effect of the gas on that soldier. Although his comrades manage to get him in a wagon which will convey him to where he can be treated (although full recovery in cases of severe exposure is not likely), he meanwhile is suffering from agonizing burns of his face, eyes, and lungs. Owen describes him:

white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; ...

the blood ... gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 

This vision prompts Own to say that anyone who had the experience of watching this happen would not describe such injuries or deaths as "sweet and proper".

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