Ashleigh Waters Poetry 2027 Josef Horacek 21 November 2011 Dulce Et Decorum Est “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen is a war poem written to show the cruel reality of war. Owen uses his own experience of World War I in his poetry in order to depict the true horror of warfare. During the war, Owen was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital after suffering shell shock. He then wrote poetry as a way to cope with the horrific memories of the war. In the poem, Owen uses very personal memories and vivid imagery to try to convince others to stop enlisting and supporting the war.
Written whilst receiving treatment for shell shock in Craiglockart, “Dulce et Decorum Est” is a bitter response to Owen’s first hand experience of war and an attack on propagandists, most particularly Jessie Pope, a writer who supported the war and encouraged men to fight. This poem was written at a time where men were praised for fighting for their country. If they died during battle, it was said that they died a heroic death. After seeing fellow soldiers die horrific deaths, Owen wrote “Dulce et Decorum Est” in hopes of changing young men’s minds about fighting.
The poem can be divided into three sections: a description of soldiers leaving the battlefield, a mustard gas attack and a challenge thrown out to those who glorify war. From the very first line “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks” it is clear that “Dulce Et Decorum Est” is a very negatively toned poem. This is reinforced by other lines in the first stanza such as “All went lame; all blind” and “And towards our distant rest began to trudge”. This negative tone, which is brought about by the by the emotional language used (like “old” and “trudge”), creates a gloomy scene. Dulce et Decorum est” is a satirical poem about a Latin saying meaning “how sweet and fitting it is”. Through this poem Owen tries to show readers this saying is a lie, and that war is not as glorious as many people make it out to be. The first section includes a series of descriptions of soldiers that is at odds with the smartly uniformed young men being waved off by loved ones and sweet-hearts, familiar to those left behind. These men have become old and beaten down with exhaustion, pain and fear, “old beggars, bent double” and “hags”.
Who Was Dulce Et Decorum Est Written For
Owen wants to show the reality of war, not some false glorification. World War I was the first major global war and the first to use large amounts of technology. It was a disaster for ordinary soldiers; practically a whole generation of young men was wiped out. On top of all this there were major blunders in getting supplies to troops. No wonder then that some “had lost their boots” and walked “blood-shod”. The term “blood-shod” not only describes the men’s feet covered in blood but brings to mind connotations of blood-shot and blood-shed, phrases that aptly describe the situation.
Overall the scene is one of weariness and defeat; the personification of the Five-nines, 5. 9 caliber shells, says it all. The weaponry of warfare has taken on the feelings of its victims. It is the soldiers who are “tired and outstripped”. The reader is jolted from generality of the slow trudge from the battle into a specific incident. The urgency and immediacy of the gas attack is presented through the use of the present continuous and the shouted exclamations “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! “. The use of green adjectives such as lime is used to show the green colored gas clouding the air.
Readers can image Owen looking through the gas mask’s “misty panes” at a fellow mask less soldier gasping and choking for air. Owen uses an extended metaphor of the sea and drowning to recreate the froth-choked drowning caused by a gas attack. The next two lines are separated to show their purpose as a link between the reality of war and the warning to those who present it otherwise. Owen continues the linked metaphor of sleepwalking, dreams and nightmares “In all my dreams”, to show how relentless this returning image is and how awful. “My helpless sight” takes on two meanings here.
Firstly, Owen is unable to offer help to the afflicted soldier and secondly, he is helplessly unable to keep his dreams from returning to this memory. Again the use of the present continuous in “guttering, choking, drowning” adds to the constant immediacy of the episode and reiterates the drowning theme. The final section of the poem is written in direct address to the ironically entitled “My friend”. The first line of this stanza forms the future conditional; perhaps Owen, although hopeful, realizes that the intended recipient of the poem will never dream of this terrible scene.
Owen uses alliteration to draw the attention of the reader, in the line “And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,” which creates a stark and confronting image within the reader’s mind. Further, in “his hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin” it is through the use of simile the poet arouses the sympathy of the responder as they witness the grotesque nature of such a death. This line also uses alliteration to create a hissing sound produced by the harsh ‘s’ sound. The hissing sound, almost snake like, adds to the harshness of the poem.
Owen’s only hope is that the powerful but ugly imagery in this section of the poem will allow them an explicit insight into the horrors of modern warfare. Owen cleverly links the burning effects of the gas on the young man’s mouth with the lies told by those like Jessie Pope in the poem “Who’s For The Game”. The saying Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori was familiar to most during this period, it means “it is sweet and just to die for one’s country”. Taken from the opening lines of an Ode by Horace, it was frequently used to urge young men to enlist.
It is the serving up of spewed out, second hand patriotism from a previous era, when war was considered valiant and heroic, that Owen compares to the “incurable sores on innocent tongues”. Although loosely written in iambic pentameter, the variations in the syllable counts for each line, added to the use of caesura, prevent any flow or rhythm in the poem. The first stanza is Owen recalling a memory he had fighting, so rich in detail the reader can imagine the exact scene Owen creates. Although the second stanza is only two lines, those two lines have much impact as Owen is now in the present being haunted by the poor soldier’s death.
The third stanza is Owen talking to young men being enlisted to this horrible war hoping he can stop them from dying unnecessary deaths. Owen wanted to break with tradition to show how moral values had broken down. He also broke with traditional language and imagery in an attempt to shock the complacent who send young men to their deaths based upon “The old lie”. “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen is war poem written to give light to the real and harsh conditions of the war. Owen wanted to let those at home that the men were dying unfortunate deaths and not heroic ones. Owen