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As he put it in the draft preface he wrote for his poems: ‘My subject is War, and the pity of War.
Jessie Pope and her ilk would not be able to feed the ‘Old Lie’, , to impressionable young men (some of them so young they are still ‘children’: it’s worth remembering that some boys lied about their age so they could join up) who are ‘ardent for some desperate glory’.
‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is a fine example of Owen’s superb craftsmanship as a poet: young he may have been, and valuable as his poetry is as a window onto the horrors of the First World War, in the last analysis the reason we value his response to the horrific events he witnessed is that he put them across in such emotive but controlled language, using imagery at once true and effective.
One soldier is unable to put his protective mask on in time, leading to a description of the horrible effects of the chemical.
It then casts doubt upon the attitude that it is “honorable to die for one’s county,” suggesting that it would be difficult for anyone who has seen the tragedies of war firsthand to feel that way. The narrator sees a comrade drowning as if he were underwater.
“Dulce et Decorum est” is war poet Wilfred Owen’s poem about the terrors of war.
He composed it during World War I, and it was first published in 1920 after his death.
Fighting men who were not long ago robust and vital are wallowing in blood and death.
The graphic nature of the poem is fitting as World War I produced more casualties than did World War II and was the first major conflict of the modern era to use tanks and heavy artillery along with the poison gas that is central to the poem.
The Latin title was taken from the Roman poet Horace and translates to “it is sweet and honorable,” which in the original work of Horace is followed by a line meaning “to die for one’s country.” Its images of war are considered harsh and its opposition to war clear.
The basic structure of the poem is close to sonnet form although the spacing is irregular. The poem begins with an anecdote about British soldiers being attacked with chlorine gas.