Sunday, November 11, 2012

A World War I Poem from one who was there, Wilfred Owens

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
from Flickr by Tim Brauhn

In college, a botany professor, who had barely survived Vietnam, handed me a book of poems by Wilfred Owens.  It included this poem ~

Dulce et Decorum est

By Wilfred Owen

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 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
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.

The Old Lie ~ a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace's Odes (III.2.13). The line can be roughly translated into English as: "It is sweet and right to die for your country."



  1. i am at a loss for words.

    1. Nance ~ I felt a need to have his words seen today. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Thank you Wayne. So unbearably tragic.

    My great grand-dad died at the tender age of 26 from complications due to mustard gas poisoning. Last night, I thought a lot about that so it was interesting to find this on your latest post.


  3. Such a cruel, cruel war. (Are not they all?)

  4. I'm glad that you shared this today, Wayne. There is much that we can recieve in these hard, raw words.


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