Dulce Et Decorum Est

war photoDulce 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 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.

 

The poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est” was written by Owen Wilfred. The general theme of the poem is “War”. Specific themes which can be interpreted from the poem include:

  1. War is hell.
  2. Do everything to avoid a war.
  3. Leaders lie to ardent youths and brainwash them into fighting wars.

The title of the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, is written in the Latin Language. The Latin Language is now a dead language in the sense that is not the official or spoken language of any nation or people. However, Latin is still the language of science in the sense that many scientific names and other expressions are derived from it.

All the Romance Languages are derived from the Latin Language. The word “Romance” in this context does not take on a “romantic” meaning. Therefore, the expression “Romance Language” is not synonymous with “Romantic Language”.

I told my students, much to their amusement, that the word “Romance” in this context does not mean romance as in a “romance novel” or a “romance film” or a “romantic walk on the beach”.

The word “Romance” means “of or having to do with Rome or the ancient Roman people.” The language of the Romans was Latin. After the fall of Rome, the Romans scattered to different parts of the world, such as Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. New languages emerged from the settlers in the different regions. The Romance Languages therefore, are as follows:

  1. French
  2. Portuguese
  3. Italian
  4. Spanish

The title “Dulce Et Decorum Est” is translated as “It is Sweet and Proper”, as broken down below:

Dulce = sweet

Et = and

Decorum = proper (fit, becoming)

Est = it is

The poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est” highlights the struggles and horrors of war. It also implies lack of feelings or consideration on the part of the perpetrators of war, or the warmongers, as they would be termed.

The last stanza sums It up well:

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.

 

The poet challenges that if you, the reader of the poem, could go through just one of the horrendous experiences which soldiers regularly experience, then you would not repeat the old lie that was told to you: It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.

Because emotions are contagious, it is easy for people to become mass hypnotized. Ideas charged with emotions often spread like a virus from one person to another. When the emotional brain overpowers the logical brain, people get carried away, as in the case the poet is highlighting: It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country.

Is it really sweet and proper to die for one’s country? How so? Clearly, there is nothing sweet about living through a war, as can be seen from this poem, much less dying through it. What force could dictate that dying for one’s country is “sweet”? How can it be “sweet” to leave your children fatherless, your mother, childless, or your sister, brother-less?

Clearly, there is nothing sweet about this behavior, or the very act of war. However, people are brainwashed into believing this by elitist leaders. And who are these elitist leaders? Are they people who truly care for you? If they did, would they send you to die in a war? Further, people steadily move from one country to another, so then how can any one country be labeled as “your country”?

Indeed, if any people are under attack from an outside force, they have a right and responsibility to take up arms and stand against that enemy. However, most wars are fought for clearly stupid reasons, and are evoked simply because of the arrogance or greed of the ruling class.

Sadly, it seems that it has always been easy, and will perhaps always be, easy to find mercenaries willing to risk their lives, kill and destroy for a paltry sum.

Similes from the poem: Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags,

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.

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

Obscene as cancer,

bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

Discussion: Dulce Et Decorum Est

How well do you think the poet portrays the bitterness and the horrors of war?

Humans are often considered to be gullible. That means, they are easily fooled. They can be easily brainwashed and believe any lie. How do leaders take advantage of the gullible nature of the masses to create wars?

An idea charged with emotions is like a virus, it spreads quickly from one infected person to another uninfected person, who then becomes infected and infects others. “Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori” means “it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”. How do leaders charge the idea “Dulce Et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori” with emotions, so that it spreads like a virus?

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar
wpDiscuz