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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Explain the title and last lines of "Dulce et Decorum est".

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The title and last line translated from the Latin mean It is sweet and honorable, to die for one's country. The use of Latin is appropriate for this classical, epic view of war.

It is a view Owen completely rejects and he uses his own experience of modern warfare to do so. Straightaway, there is an ironic distance between the opening of the poem and its title.They don't march as soldiers should, they 'trudge .....through sludge'. The anti - heroic view of war is very apparent, the rhyme on this occasion suggesting its dull,repetitive nature.

When Owen describes the death throes of the victim of the gas attack, the contrast between reality and the high minded sentiment of the title becomes not just ironic, but 'Obscene' , 'bitter', words Owen uses to describe the victim's now infected lungs. It is also description which coveys the horror, not the glory of war.

The poem's ending reveals that the whole thing is actually what Owen is saying to someone who chose to repeat the lie that is the  dulce et decorum est sentiment. The fact that the poem is part of a conversation, allows Owen to fully vent his anger at the sentiment, the poem's title. It is the most effective anti-war poem I have ever read.

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What is significant about the last two lines of "Dulce et Decorum est"?  

"Dulce et Decorum Est" was written by Wilfred Owen, whose poetry was shaped by his own experiences in the trenches of World War I (and who would himself die shortly before the armistice). This poem is ultimately about the horrors of war, and it is graphic in its descriptions of the experience in the trenches—but at the end of the poem, the tenor of the poem actually changes somewhat so that it becomes an indictment on the glorification of war. This is ultimately the message that emerges in the poem's final stanza (and is also alluded to in the title of the poem). The speaker addresses some external personality, relating the things he has seen and experienced. Note the conditional nature of his phrasing in his use of the word "if". Essentially: if you have experienced what I have experienced . . .

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 is referring here to a quote by Horace, and in referencing this quote within this particular context, he voices a scathing rejoinder to anyone who would claim that death on the battlefield is something ennobling.

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What is significant about the last two lines of "Dulce et Decorum est"?  

The title comes from the last two lines, and the lines are Latin and translate roughly to "It is sweet and right to die for your country."

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)  
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.(15)

Basically, this is an anti-war poem.  These last lines refer to the fact that people often describe war as a wonderful thing, and as the Latin suggests, glorify dying for one’s country.  The poem does not agree with this, calling it a “Lie” with a capital L.  Children deserve to know the truth: that war is terrible.  Instead of glorifying war, this poem describes it in its horrid detail and encourages people to appreciate and understand the difficulty that war causes for a person and a family.  Too many children run off to join up in the war, when they see it as romanitc and don't really know what they are in for.

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