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.
- Wilfred Owen
Literal Meaning: This poem is ironic because the title is a patriotic phrase in the Latin language. This Latin phrase means it is just and fitting to die for one’s country while the poem itself talks about the reality of war, which is about the blood, the death, and the pain of those involved. It also talks about in great detail about the death, how the gas seeped into the soldiers lungs and they would drown in their own bodily fluid.
About the Poet: Wilfred Owen is one of the most famous First World War poets, and drew his inspiration from fellow war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, whom he met while recovering in a hospital in England. Owen, much like many war poets, was a soldier for the British, and saw firsthand what the gassing did to the soldiers. After returning to the front, Owen perished in the Sambre Canal one week before the Armistice of 1918.
Connection to Vic High: Mustard Gas was deadly. One of our soldiers, Harry Cross, was gassed with Mustard Gas in the battle of Passchendaele. At the time he was approximately eighteen years of age when he was gassed. He never recovered his health after being gassed, and succumbed to his war injuries. Still to this day, his relatives are touched and emotional from his passing.