This weeks poem, is yet another peom I studied at school. This time it was for my Junior Cert English exam. I have chosen Wilfred Owen’s “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.
Note: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” translates as, it is sweet and right to die for your country
Dulce et Decorum est is argueably one of the best known World War I poems. I sat my Junior Cert way back in 2001 (now I feel really old) and this poem still brings back memories of the class room. This poem had effect on me from the first time I read it. This turned me into “dove” to use cold war terminology. At times there is ‘good’ reasons for war, defence of ones country for example, but it is the patriotism, or brainwashing, of the young we have to be careful of. It happened again of course during World War II in Germany. Strangly enough and by coincidence today is actually ANZAC day, so its fitting to post a poem about WW I