Wilfred Owen – Dulce Et Decorum Est

The old lie – it is sweet and proper to die for the fatherland.

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 out 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
Pro patria mori.

Every year I used to read this to the school in our Remembrance Service.
The reality of war is horror. There is nothing brave or valiant about it. It is horror.
Remembrance is about remembering the poor victims of war – the dead, the maimed and the mentally shattered.  We remember so that we can find better ways of dealing with things. We remember so that we do not have to keep doing it again and again.
We are not very good at remembering.

4 thoughts on “Wilfred Owen – Dulce Et Decorum Est

  1. Can I just say that the translation is a bit off and it does not say as you claim it does.
    Dulce Et Decorum Est just translates only as “it is sweet and honorable”
    There is nothing about dying for one’s country (fatherland) in the text.

    1. I think you will find that you have missed off the last line:
      Dulce et decorum est
      Pro patria mori.
      Can be translated in a number of ways – It is sweet and honourable (proper) to die for one’s country (fatherland) – from a poem of Horace.

      1. Yes, I know it was written by Horace. Hence my ability to tell you of your mistake – please refer to your text as written in capital letters on the top of the page where you had only written half of the complete phrase under your opening sentence starting with “the old lie…”
        Why would you do that?

        Why can’t you just say, OK, thanks, I’ll sort it?
        And you think I missed something? Please! Lol.

      2. Because that was the title of the poem. Perhaps you should have read the whole thing before commenting? The poem is all there. I merely put the translation of the Latin at the front. I was not translating the title but the end of the poem – emphasising the message of the poem.

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