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Thursday, April 06, 2017

National Poetry Month 2017: Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est

I considered posting this yesterday, in light of the gas attack against civilians in Syria. It wasn't an original thought, but one suggested by my friend Ike Renfield. Today it seems even more appropriate. Today is the 100th anniversary of the United States becoming involved in WWI. And just a few hours ago, Donald Trump ordered a strike with Tomahawk missiles against an airbase near Homs in Syria - a strike that has apparently resulted in the deaths of several Russian military advisers.

The title, and the concluding quote, are from Horace: "Sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country."

Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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.

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