Poem of the Day: Dulce Et Decorum Est

Content Warning: This poem contains violent descriptions.

I recently read the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, and found it a heartbreaking but realistic message of what war is like, especially the World Wars. Read it below!

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 was a soldier during World War I, and later in his life, he suffered from severe PTSD. This poem details the horrors of chemical agents used in the war- such as sulfur and mustard gas. Owen speaks in gruesome detail of how he watched one of his fellow soldiers die from breathing in this gas. At the end, he also rebukes the supporters of the war (and all wars), saying that they know nothing of what war is really like, and simply send young men off to their horrible deaths. He mocks the saying dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. This is a patriotic Latin saying, meaning it is sweet and honorable to die for your country.

-Vaidehi B.

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