Dulce et Decorum Est

100 years ago, a generation of young men tore each other to pieces to prosecute the ambitions of their rulers. On 11/11, some of us remember them.

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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
[i]Pro patria mori.

[/i](Wilfred Owen, KIA 1918)
edited by malthaussen on 11/11/2015

Thank you for sharing, Mal. I love Wilfred Owen (&quotAnthem for Doomed Youth&quot remains one of my favourites) but I just taught this poem in class a few weeks back, so seeing it here is slightly… disorienting! Still, I suppose that is proof that Owen’s poetry lives on in the hearts of youth who do not have to worry about war, precisely because of the sacrifices of others…
edited by Sestina Valdis on 11/11/2015

Don’t know if I agree with the sentiment, though, Sestina. Lt Owen’s poems may live on in some hearts, but the War to End All Wars didn’t, and there are young men and women dying just as futilely now as ever have been. Just not so much in Western Europe, these days.

– Mal

That’s true… I suppose that I speak from a very privileged and fortunate perspective. Didn’t mean to come across that way at all. I do have to watch that sometimes because it’s easy to forget and to take one’s blessings for granted. One of my students did say that Owen’s poems are very relevant, even today. I think I’d agree. He still has a lot that he needs to tell us.
edited by Sestina Valdis on 11/11/2015

I think that the both of you are right. I’m sorry and I am rather disappointed in myself for saying something that was actually rather close-minded and, in some ways, even disrespectful… Still, thank you for helping me realise that, and doing it in such an eloquent and poignant way. I really am grateful!

[quote=Robin Mask]
The reason why it stays in our hearts is because of the universal truth.

There is no glory in war.[/quote]

I had a secondhand history textbook for secondary school from mainland China - every single line of history on that book oozes hostility and &quotglory&quot.

I never knew this Owen’s poetry (not really the sort that had much exposure to literature), but this is making all that terrible text come back. It’s like the very antithesis of this poem.
edited by Estelle Knoht on 11/11/2015

It’s sad these young men’s death is considered heroic. it’s just sad.

That is my immature opinion, as I’m 14 and I’m being raised by a family of pacifists.

[quote=Monsieur Dummour]It’s sad these young men’s death is considered heroic. it’s just sad.

That is my immature opinion, as I’m 14 and I’m being raised by a family of pacifists.[/quote]

If that’s immature, what we can describe these people who still think going to war is cool & good?

I still die a little inside everytime when I hear people in Hong Kong say &quotBack in WW2 Japan should have wiped out the flith that is China&quot OR some mainlanders say &quotAmerica should have nuked these Japan ghost harder so they will stop breeding&quot.

By “immature” i meant “coming from an immature person” My English isn’t that fluent, sorry.

I reckon she meant she doesn’t think you or your comment is immature.

I think that WWI stands out, from a literary standpoint, because it was so disillusioning. An apt word, since The Great Illusion had just been published before the war, demonstrating to Europe’s satisfaction that war was impossible in the modern age. The brutality, savagery, and futility of the trenches completely overturned the complacent world-view that man had evolved past such activities, at least in the &quotcivilized&quot and &quotprogressive&quot West. The shock was, clearly, devastating. Whereas WWII and the sequel would produce more of an &quotoh, no, not this again&quot attitude. Not to say good art didn’t come out of other wars, but WWI’s circumstances are unique.

– Mal