Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dulce et Decorum Est? (The old Lie)

We will remember them...


The poem of this name was one we had to learn in school.  The horrors of the first world war put to rest any ridiculous romantic notion of it being "Sweet and right to die for one's country." (Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.)

We will remember them...

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.
(See link for more on this poem).

2 comments:

Fr Levi said...

Thanks for this Daniel. Wilfred Owen should be required reading for each generation to help people remember how horrible war can be.

I find this poem particularly touching - when I was in the military, part of our training for chemical warfare was to be locked in a bunker filled with CS gas & then remove our masks & spend about a few minutes in there with them off. Even that short period was a pretty horrible experience and it was only tear gas - it's 25 years ago and I don't think I'll ever forget the choking, burning, blinding experience ... and it's something that wouldn't even compare to the reality of what can happen on the battlefield.

Daniel Owen said...

Thank you Father Levi. I am almost envious of your experience ... almost!