lce et Decorum Est byWilfred Owen. This is a perfect example of an unjoyful poem where the sole
purpose is to show war’s inhumane and futile side.
The poem is based on a group of soldiers in the First World War who
are victims of a gas attack. One of the soldiers doesn’t manage to get his
gas mask on in time and dies slowly and painfully in front of the others.
The title of the poem is Latin and literally means ;”It is a sweet and
glorious thing” is used sarcastically but at first fools you into thinking
that the poem is going to be another typical patriotic poem but once you
read the opening line you realise that its not as at seems. The opening
line was hugely controversial is it describes the soldiers as; “old beggars
under sacks” which was thought to be letting the side down but what shocked
me was how his image of a soldier greatly contradicts mine. When I think of
a soldier a picture a tall, young man in his physical prime standing
upright in uniform smartly dressed but Owens’s couldn’t be any further
different . He portrays the soldiers as burnt out and then compares there
conditions to sludge which is the start of his heavy use of similes and
also his major onomatopoeic usage. I think ‘sludge’ is a great word to use
in this circumstance as it makes you feel the effort that the soldiers
would have had to put in with every step through the thick mud.
In the fourth line the author again uses a strange phrase when he
writes;” Drunk with fatigue ” I had to think about what the line was
suppose to mean for a while but I think it means that the soldiers were so
tired they weren’t aware of there surroundings and then Owen finishes the
first stanza with a eerie, sinister feel with the line ;” deaf even to the
hoots of gas-shells dropping gently behind”. To me that line conjures the
image of the men marching along half asleep unaware of the potentially
deadly danger that lurks behind them.
The second stanza starts of with the men realising the gas attack and in
the opening line the author uses another unusual choice of words;” an
ecstasy of fumbling” I think this line is highly effective at portraying a
detailed image when you think about what ecstasy actually means. The word
literally means a raised awareness and when you think about it that way you
can picture the men slowly trudging along and then they hear the gas shout
and suddenly become alert and struggle to find their masks.
The mood of the poem then changes with;” But someone was still yelling
out and stumbling …” and you can just imagine the helpless man vainly
trying to save himself in the waves of green gas that Owen describes as a
Owen then changes his approach to describing the nightmares that
still haunt him about the dying man stretching out to him and he uses the
word guttering which shows the mans fight for life.
In the third and final stanza the author for the first time uses the
word ‘you’ which makes you think about the horrors of war and what it would
be like for you to be there yourself and experience the suffering that so
many millions of young men went through.
The lines that most impressed me were;” If you could hear, at every
jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs” in these
lines Owen has used punctuation so as you are reading you can feel the
jerks and the jolts of the blood spilling from the poor mans lungs .
The poem then finishes of with its most controversial line;” The old
lie:Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria mori” It is a sweet and glorious thing
to die for your country. This is what the whole poem is building up to.
Through the stanzas he has been showing us how there is nothing glorious in
dying horribly but in fact it is a pointless waste of young life and the
people who conjured these patriotic thoughts in young minds are
surprisingly enough not the cannon-fodder on the front lines but safe at
The more I read this poem the more I respect Owens talent for writing
because there is not one word in the poem that has not been thought through
and every word serves a purpose. The author even uses punctuation to serve
a purpose e.g. In the first stanza he uses commas and semi-colons to give
the feeling of the men limping and also in the first stanza he uses
alliteration of the letter s to symbolize the gas escaping from the shell.
All round I think this is a great poem that isn’t romanticised at all
but still is highly effective in giving you a honest portrayal of what
trench war fare must have been like for the millions of young life’s it