Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

The poem Dulce et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen is a poem about his feelings on the First World War. He writes the poem through the eyes of a soldier in the trenches, and describes what life is like for a soldier during the First World War. He is able to illustrate that War is evil and that the soldiers who are these brave men are reduced to being no more than beggars!

Owen sets the scene with his opening stanza where he compares the soldiers with beggars hurled up in the trenches:

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“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,”

This image Owen opens with helped me create a picture of the soldiers all curled up in the trenches curled up together, like homeless people you see on the streets. The way he says “… we…” suggests he was amongst the soldiers in the trenches; this helps me believe what Owen is saying because he was actually there.

In stanza two Owen describes a gas attack on the soldiers in the trenches and how one soldier alerts the others, and instructs them to put their gas masks on:

“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys…”

Owen also describes the man who was alerting the other soldiers of the attack as not managing to get his mask on in time, and that he was like a man on fire. And it was like he was drowning in the gas:

“As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.”

The pace of stanza two is quicker than the rest of the poem, I believe this is because Owen is describing something that happened quickly and he wants the reader to know how fast a gas attack happens.

Owen describes a recurring nightmare in stanza three about the soldier, who died, in his nightmare the soldier throws himself towards him coughing as he suffocates:

“He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.”

This stanza maybe shorter than the others but has the same profound effect. It helps me understand what it was like for the soldiers who saw men die, how it would be traumatic to them.

In stanza four Owen explains how an injured soldier was put in a wagon and his head was hanging with his eyes rolling, I think the soldier had been poisoned during a gas attack:

“Behind the wagon that we had flung him in, and watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face,”

Owen describes the soldier’s fate which is he is going to die, and that he won’t be dying in glory as Owen believes that is a lie:

“…ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie”

In this poem Owen expresses the idea that war is evil by the way he writes by saying that he was there and by stating what he saw. He also gets the message of war being evil across by the description and comparisons he made through out the poem. The first comparison that he makes has major impact on me, when he compares the soldiers to beggars:

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,”

This comparison had such a big impact on me as I thought soldiers were proud, brave men and had never considered them being beggars! I think Owen used this for his opening sentence to stun the readers.

Owen shows that war is not as glorious as people have been led to believe by saying that it’s not glorious to die:

“To children ardent for some desperate glory, the old lie”

The Latin quote “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” means how sweet and honourable it is to die for ones country. The deaths that Owen describes to not seem sweet and honourable, I don’t think anyone should die that way.

The overall tone of this poem is sadness and strength. This poem makes me feel that trench warfare and fighting for one’s country in World War 1 is not glorious and patriotic, like what I had been led to believe. Now I think it was meaningless and cost millions of lives in the most horrific way possible, I do not think there’s anything honourable about dying in the trenches. The poem has changed my opinion of War in general and especially trench warfare, the poem has shown me that War is evil.