Friday, April 24, 2015

Poem: "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

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.


  1. Well, yes. The perfect poem to post this week. I met a British family recently who have two sons, one named Wilf. When the mother introduced him to me, I said, "Wilf, like the poet Wilfred Owens, right?" and she was so happy that I got that 'f' in there, said most people think they are saying Will. I think Wilfred Owens has been on my mind recently... I used to teach his poetry when we arrived at WWI in Western Civ classes... and it always connects. Thanks for sharing here, Andrew.

  2. I agree with Michelle, perhaps the quintessential WW1 poem.

  3. Perfect for Anzac day. and such a wonderful poem. It's so applicable today, (particularly in the UK), but I don't think the young people heading for Syria and Libya read poetry like this.