Sunday, October 16, 2011

(photo from

POEM #19 - Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

WARNING: This poem is not for the faint of heart. DISCLAIMER: Just because I include a poem, does not (of course) imply that I agree with the philosophies and/or lifestyles of the poet.

I include this one because it made me cry. "Great," say all. The British poetry of WWI was included in a college class I took, and I found it to be so tragic and powerful. There was a shocking transition in this war. Prior to WWI, there was the glory of trumpets and horses and neatly lined up troops. The emerging technology of the day allowed for horrific deaths committed in anonymity. This poem describes the terror the men felt toward being gassed. The Latin phrase at the end goes something like, "Sweet and worthy it is to die for own's homeland." Mr. Owen, was killed in action on week prior to the ending of the war.

War and the human suffering that accompanies it are part of the great tragedy of a fallen world. I'm looking forward to the day when Christ rules the new heavens and new earth. In that day, poems like this will never be written again.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

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 comment:

Valorie said...

oh, this is such a skilled, but tragic glimpse of suffering and death caused by war. It seems that some, like the writer of this poem, turn to words in even the most extreme events- there is almost solace in letting the sentences become a legacy. I too, Charity, await the day when the Righteous Judge will rule our world. Thanks for sharing this.