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(1893-1918 / Shropshire / England)

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Dulce et Decorum Est

1 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
2 Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
3 Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
4 And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
5 Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
6 But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
7 Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
8 Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

9 Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
10 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
11 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
12 And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
13 Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
14 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

15 In all my dreams before my helpless sight
16 He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

17 If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
18 Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
19 And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
20 His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
21 If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
22 Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
23 Bitter as the cud
24 Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
25 My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
26 To children ardent for some desperate glory,
27 The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
28 Pro patria mori.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002


Read poems about / on: green, sick, children, friend, fire, lost, sea, light, child, dream

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Comments about this poem (Beauty by Wilfred Owen )

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  • Aidan Du Toit (3/5/2014 8:21:00 PM)

    Does anyone know to figure out the layout of the poem?
    If so could you please respond.
    Thanks

    5 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Ronn Michael Salinas (7/16/2013 12:19:00 PM)

    I remember reading this in my summer reading packet for AP English and being awed by its imagery. Great work.

  • John Hardesty (7/16/2013 11:03:00 AM)

    Basically, mustard gas, the Germans were not kind to the English!

  • Sinead C (10/20/2012 7:22:00 AM)

    Did an essay on this poem... you can really figure out what wilfred own is trying to tell us if figure out what english techniques he is using....

  • Terence George Craddock (7/16/2012 2:12:00 PM)

    A word of warning for anyone who intends to use the RIC S. BASTASA reading of 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' Copyright: Kenneth Simcox,2000 at senior high school, IBO or university level. The title 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' is a quotation from the Latin poet Horace (Odes, iii ii 13) , meaning 'It is sweet and right to die for one's country' and Owen quotes the complete quotation in the last two lines. The irony of the title is, as Owen states, this is a lie; it is not sweet and right, it is not wonderful or a great honour to die like this for your country. Base an answer solidly around this meaning.
    Stanza two the monosyllabic slab 'Gas! GAS! ' is a cry of warning, extended into the comradeship of 'Quick, boys! -An ecstasy of fumbling'. This is not a 'morbid state of nerves', it is a description of exhausted soldiers, the 'Men marched asleep... All went lame, all blind; / Drunk with fatigue; ' and due to this extreme physical and mental exhaustion the soldiers are 'deaf even to the hoots/ Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.' The 'ecstasy of fumbling' describes all the soldiers, waking from exhaustion into extreme fear, trying to rapidly attach their gas masks to save their own lives.
    'Lines 12-14 (does not) consist of a powerful underwater metaphor, with succumbing to poison gas being compared to drowning.' Symptoms of chlorine or phosgene gas are correctly described. The 'misty panes and thick green light, /As under a green sea, I saw him drowning' are accurate descriptions of the green poison gas covering the land. Medically the gas causes the lungs to fill with fluid and the gassed soldiers drown from liquid in their own lungs. The words 'gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs describes, gassed lungs filled with fluid, producing the same effects, as when a person drowns in water.
    Stanzas one and two are not 'straight description'. The poetic stanzas are laid out like a sonnet, not a Petrarchan, Shakespearean or Spenserian sonnet, but an Owen sonnet. Owen is end rhyming ABAB ACAC DEDEFD, before extending into stanza three FD, describing a new terror form of warfare, by creating his own distinctive verse form.
    Stanza three reflects Owen’s nightmare memories of this gas attack. 'As a part of his therapy at Craiglockhart, psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh, Owen's doctor, Arthur Brock, encouraged Owen to translate his experiences, specifically the experiences he relived in his dreams, into poetry'. Wilfred is definitely tormented, haunted with the memory of this gas death as 'In all my dreams before my helpless sight /He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning' attests.
    Owen had 'found himself stranded in a badly shelled forward position for days looking at the scattered pieces of a fellow officer's body (2/Lt. Gaukroger) '. Wilfred 'was blown high into the air by a trench mortar, landing among the remains of a fellow officer. Soon after, he became trapped for days in an old German dugout. After these two events, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from 'neurasthenia', shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital'. Shell shock is a battle fatigue condition, a combat stress reaction with early symptoms including 'tiredness, irritability, giddiness, lack of concentration and headaches.' Continued exposure to artillery shelling and trench warfare caused many soldiers like Owen to suffer mental breakdowns.
    Stanza four provides the strongest anti-hero imagery in the entire poem, with the criminal rendering, 'His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin' being absolutely unheroic. Contrast the public memory of how, 'World War I began with great fanfare with long columns of smiling soldiers parading off to war wearing dress uniforms with flowers sticking out of the muzzles of their rifles' with Owen's unheroic descriptions. Not mud but 'we cursed through sludge, ' hardly begins to describe; 'the ground was not mud, not sloppy mud, but an octopus of sucking clay, three, four, and five feet deep, relieved only by craters full of water...' which Owen wrote of in letters to his mother. Owen's 'horrified by the stench of the rotting dead', and rats eating corpses of men are other details Wilfred spares the reader.
    Remember stanza four is not 'Owen attacks those people at home who uphold the war's continuance unaware of its realities.' It is Owen's therapy, an exorcism of his experiences. The original 8 October 1917 draft was sent to an audience of one, his mother, Susan Owen. Nor is written 'at white heat' accurate, the poem was revised over several months and not published until after the war, posthumously in1920. 'Harsh, effective in the extreme, yet maybe too negative to rank among Owen's finest achievements; ' Mr Simcox? No definitely not! This is one of the greatest war poems ever written, a remarkable achievement.

  • Shireen Ramadan (7/16/2012 4:07:00 AM)

    It makes me remember The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

  • Tuffsnotenuff Y''all (4/23/2012 10:09:00 AM)

    This poem moved me to sign up for 4 years in the Navy instead of doing Vietnam in the Army. As a guess that was the largest life-or-death choice of this life. On a Ten Scale, give this poem a 12.

    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, ....

    Knock-out! Never to be forgotten, never to be set aside as our core understanding of war's madness.

  • Bob Blackwell (11/7/2011 1:43:00 AM)

    A vivid description of life for a soldier in WW1. The horrors of war described, show how man spends time to make weapons of mass desctruction and injury to use against his fellow man. I pray one day this madness will stop. My own father was at the Battle of the Somme, but like many who had been there, he never spoke about being there or describe the horrors of it.

  • Daniel Martin (7/26/2011 7:19:00 AM)

    The stark contrast between the lie and the reality, is so powerfully demonstrated in the account of the dying soldier.

  • Joseph Poewhit (7/17/2011 4:34:00 AM)

    Makes one wonder of today. What little goodies are labeled top secret weapons, in secret closets? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

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