View Full Version : Rate-a-Poem: Dulce et Decorum Est

William Haskins
12-06-2005, 08:43 AM
By Wilfred Owen (http://poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/305)
(Killed in World War 1)

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 disappointed shells 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 floundering 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.*

*"It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." (Horace)

12-06-2005, 08:55 AM
Liked this one much better than yesterday's selection, but I'm morbid, so this one appeals to me more.

12-06-2005, 10:04 AM
*groan* I can't seem to escape this one this week. Wherever I am, it keeps turning up. Wonder if someone is trying to tell me something?

I gave it five stars. It captures the horror of war and the industrialization of death for soldiers in World War I, which was a departure from past wars. It has an emotional impact. The imagery chosen by the poet coupled with the ironic ending serves to make the reader think about the poem's message and the world the poet has portrayed.

12-06-2005, 02:39 PM
This is my favourite poem (along with Anthem For Doomed Youth) by my favourite poet. I think I'm half in love with Wilfred Owen and by coincidence I'm reading a biography of him at the moment.

12-06-2005, 02:45 PM
And just to add: Owen was killed on 4th November, exactly seven days before the Armistice; his family were told of his death on 11th November - (it's said), to the sound of Armistice bells.

12-06-2005, 06:28 PM
This poem is touching and disturbing. A perfect combination.

12-06-2005, 09:58 PM
It's powerful, and sad.

12-06-2005, 10:29 PM
Now it's going to stay with me all day.

12-07-2005, 12:18 AM
i love this poem and am giving it five stars,

but one line is different to the poem i have remembered;
instead of 'Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.'

i know and remember it as
'of tired outstripped five-nines that dropped behind'

i read that your version and another were written down, but i was quite sure mine was the official one.

good choice.

William Haskins
12-07-2005, 12:28 AM
the plot thickens:

you're absolutely correct in your memory of the different line. the bedford introduction to literature actually has the line in question as:

Of gas shells dropping softly behind.

the version referenced above is from the emory university department of english's site:


and, of course, has the line as:

Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
the line you quote:

Of tired outstripped five-nines that dropped behind.

is, to the best of my knowledge, the original line by owen. most scholars agree that the changes were made to appeal to a wider audience who may not recognize the lingo of "five-nines" - 5.9" artillery shells that were used to fire gas.

great call.

12-29-2005, 12:03 AM
This has always been one of my favorite poems. I just discovered the rate a poem sticky (I've been away from the boards for awhile) and lept to rate this one. I'll have to go back and page through the others.

01-11-2006, 12:15 AM
Ditto what skylarburris said.

01-16-2006, 12:08 AM
This poem rocks to the core of being and the agony of what we are.

04-23-2006, 08:16 PM
I'm reserving 5 stars for something amazing - this poem is nearly amazing.

"like a devil's sick of sin" ~ " To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori."

I especially love those parts.

Always liked Owen and yes Anthem For Doomed Youth - reminds me of GCSE though - all this stuff :)

04-24-2006, 03:05 AM
I gave it five. It marches right through your chest like an invading army.

04-24-2006, 03:38 AM
Excellent time to resurrect this superb bone-rattler, Bret - the ANZAC Day service; grim, proud veterans planting ceremonial white crosses; the strains of the Last Post.

Nothing like Latin to add nobility to a curse, is there?

04-24-2006, 09:10 AM
Nothing like Latin to add nobility to a curse, is there?


poetic peony
02-03-2007, 06:21 AM
I gave it a 5 also. I'd read it when the latin phrase was mentioned on another forum in a piece and the author asked me if I'd ever read it. When I saw the title in the list here I had to reread it. Excellent stuff.

Lady Ice
04-26-2010, 08:37 PM
Very chilling and probably one of the most effective war poems ever.

04-30-2010, 07:34 PM
Simply poetry, mastered.

bleak realism:

'And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,'

but with such energy

'An ecstasy of fumbling,'

and compassion through contrast:

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.*

We studied D.E.D.E. at school and it gives me such chills everytime I read it.

Respect to the big WO.It's hard to believe there were only five of his poems published in his lifetime. But war profits, reality doesn't.

04-30-2010, 11:47 PM
My favorite War poem ever.

05-01-2010, 12:52 AM
I'll never forget the way I felt the first time I read this poem. Even schoolteachers doing their level best to bleach out the feeling couldn't hope to succeed.

05-01-2010, 05:23 PM
It's been at least 15 years since I read that all way through. For a fair chunk, I remembered what came next.

A work of art.

05-01-2010, 06:41 PM
I have always loved this poem since I first read it in high school...he was an amazing poet and person...nice selection