Remembrance Day has recently been celebrated in Canada and one of its objectives, I believe, is to get people thinking about the wars past in order to help prevent another. Thinking of the Great Wars and World War 1, always turns my mind to the poem written by Wilfred Owen: Dulce et Decorum Est. The first time I read it, I was fourteen years old and sitting in my history class. While the teacher was reading it, I felt goosebumps on my skin. I imagined in my mind the horrors the men had felt and experienced while fighting in the trenches. While reading the poem later, my beliefs in the futility of war were cemented. How could the pain and suffering experienced during battle between countries be a good thing? Surely, I asked myself, better solutions can be found to the problems that cause these wars.
Dulce et Decorum Est (by Wilfred Owen)
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 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,
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.*
(* = it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country)
What do you think of Wilfred Owen’s poem?
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014
This post is linked to Annie Rim‘s Poets Anonymous in which she posts a poem on the 15th of every month.)