It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country

world-war-i.jpg

 

It’s called Prose Parsed, I realize, not Poetry Parsed. But then there are times when only poetry will do. Like today. Here is a famous one by Wilfred Owen about a First World War gas attack. The Latin bit at the end translates roughly to the title of this post.

 

 

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 disappointed shells 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 floundering 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.

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5 Responses to “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country”


  1. 1 Marsha December 4, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for including the poem in your blog. A few days ago, I’d been telling a friend about it and butchering the effect because I couldn’t remember all the lines. It was serendipitous finding it here while looking through your inciteful blog entries.
    Marsha http://www.writingcompanion.wordpress.com

  2. 2 proseparsed December 4, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks Marsha. I should offer a mea culpa here and confess that I might have done a better job in choosing where I lifted the poem from. Someone did a little creative editing with the last couple of lines in the first stanza, which in fact should read:

    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

    Five-nines being 5.9-calibre explosive shells. Ah yes, the good old world wide web — browser beware.

    Keep up the good work at writingcompanion. Greg

  3. 3 stoirmeil August 18, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    There are different versions, corrections and changes made by the poet; the one usually found in anthologies has it: “Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.” The one with five-nines is the older version.

  4. 4 Harry Keatinge November 26, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Hey, I am a year 12 student in NSW in Australia, and I was just wondering if you knew who had the publishing rights for that picture, I wish to use it for an assessment on power of Wilfred Owen’s poetry, and I am to include a picture. Please get back to me asap.

  5. 5 proseparsed November 26, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Hi Harry, I should have credited the source of the arresting illustration. It is by Otto Dix, Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor (Assault under Gas), 1924, and held at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. There is more information about it at this site: http://www.art-ww1.com/gb/texte/021text.html Greg


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