Home Discussion Forum What do you think of this poem "Dulce et Decorum Est"?

What do you think of this poem "Dulce et Decorum Est"?

I’m writing an analysis paper on this poem for my College Writing II class. I want to know your interpretation of it and what you think of it as far as morals and your own spirituality is concerned.
Wilfred Owen
“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.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori means “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”


  1. I wrote an essay on that poem for my GCSE coursework 🙂
    I had to compare it with the Charge of the Light Brigade.
    The way my teacher taught it, it was written as something different to all the war propaganda that tried to show it was noble or heroic to die or fight for your country, however, the author of the poem had been to war, and was angry the media glamourized it. He wanted to show what it was really like; the way I see it, he wanted to show it is brave and perhaps noble to die for your country, but it isn’t sweet and exciting.

  2. Ah, did it at school…
    The poem starkly contrasts the old sweet ideal of glorious martyrdom to the ghastly reality of what it could mean in practice. It’s likely Owen experienced such things, or was at least familiar with them from talking to others who had.
    It was in the context of a major change in society, where it had been glorious to make the ultimate sacrifice for ones country, irrespective of the wisdom or validity of cause. Prior to 1914 such values were often instilled in kids by the school system. The horrors of the Great War were to change that, after which causes and ideals became much more important in people’s opinions, and the old feudal expectations were to be swept away into the ideological turbulence of the 1920/30s.
    In terms of morality, it indicates that simply recieving morals from “above” and slavishly following them is flawed; that the glorious feudal propaganda was unrealistic and disastrous. It represented a major change in society in terms of morality, individuality, deference and expectations.
    The experience of the trenches, where massed waves of unprotected soldiers were sacrificed for little gain by insensitive generals in comfortable offices, was to change the attitudes of those who returned. The old feudal culture of deference was to be replaced by professionalism in the army and fully active democracy in society, and morality moved away from being imposed by “betters” towards popular consensus, better adapted to the needs and expectations of society. It was an end to the culture of “cannon fodder”.


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