Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out 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.
Dulce et Decorum Est was written by poet Wilfred Owen in 1917, during the First World War. It was published posthumously in 1920. As you read the poem, you will find your heart rocked by its horrific imagery. However, among all the various poems that I’ve read so far, I haven’t read any that manages to transfer its message with such an inescapable strength. It’s almost as if Owen wanted to grip world leaders by their collar and hammer some sense into their numb heads.
The title and the Latin exhortation of the final two lines are drawn from the phrase “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” written by the Ancient Roman poet Horace in (, Ode III.2.13):
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:
mors et fugacem persequitur virum
nec parcit inbellis iuventae
poplitibus timidove tergo.
“How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country:
Death pursues the man who flees,
spares not the hamstrings or cowardly backs
Of battle-shy youths.”
These famous words were often quoted by supporters of the war near its inception and were, therefore, of particular relevance to soldiers of the era.
In 1913, the first line, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, was inscribed on the wall of the chapel of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, thust gaining even greater importance.
How far can a person go to fulfill the dream’s of someone else?
Read Dream’s Sake to find out. Click on the picture for reviews and free preview of the novel