The Poets

September 26, 2011

Dulce et Decorum Est

I posted earlier this month on Siegfried Sassoon, a war poet who I came to know of and appreciate a long time ago. Since then I’ve been studying the works of an acquaintance of his, another poet who was also in the first world war, Wilfred Owen.

Now I have to say, I still consider Sassoon to be the best and most intense war poet I’ve read thus far, but Owen’s poetry is radically intense, and the imagery he employs in his poems is incredibly, incredibly vivid!

This poet, over a course of a few weeks, has been thrust into the center of my attention. His poetic genius astonishes me. Read this poem for example, just keep in mind that its title comes from a poem written by Horace, a Roman poet, and that the full Latin phrase (Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori) is: How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country …


Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
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,—
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.

1 comment:

Peter William Carrillo said...

I wrote a paper on this poem not too long ago. I chose this one out of five others because of the amazing imagery that Owen uses. Truly an amazing piece.

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