Wilfred Owen's 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 disappointed shells 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 floundering 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.

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Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

8 thoughts on “Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

  1. My history professor introduced me to this poem during my History of Civ class freshmen year of college. He was a retired Marine vet and always tried to paint an accurate (not blatantly morbid, ignorantly optimistic, vaingloriously patriotic, etc.) picture of war. As a soldier, I can vouch for the old bromide: war is long stretches of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. This piece really does a good job of capturing that mood in a very few, poignant words.

  2. “war is long stretches of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror. This piece really does a good job of capturing that mood in a very few, poignant words.”

    I appreciate I haven’t studied this in depth since I was fifteen, but I couldn’t disagree more that this poem in any way focuses on long stretches of boredom(!). I have more in mind Sargent’s ‘Gassed’.

  3. I remember first seeing this half way through secondary school. It really hits home even to a mind untouched by the subtleties of poetry, and that is what makes such a poignant work all the more sad and splendid to read.

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