One of my favorite WWI poems

DULCE ET DECORUM EST(1)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest(3) 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(4)
Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind.
Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . .
Dim, through the misty panes(10) 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,(11) 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(12)
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.(15)

Wilfred Owen
Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918

Notes on Dulce et Decorum Est
1. DULCE ET DECORUM EST – the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean “It is sweet and right.” The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

2. Flares – rockets which were sent up to burn with a brilliant glare to light up men and other targets in the area between the front lines (See illustration, page 118 of Out in the Dark.)

3. Distant rest – a camp away from the front line where exhausted soldiers might rest for a few days, or longer

4. Hoots – the noise made by the shells rushing through the air

5. Outstripped – outpaced, the soldiers have struggled beyond the reach of these shells which are now falling behind them as they struggle away from the scene of battle

6. Five-Nines – 5.9 calibre explosive shells

7. Gas! – poison gas. From the symptoms it would appear to be chlorine or phosgene gas. The filling of the lungs with fluid had the same effects as when a person drowned

8. Helmets – the early name for gas masks

9. Lime – a white chalky substance which can burn live tissue

10. Panes – the glass in the eyepieces of the gas masks

11. Guttering – Owen probably meant flickering out like a candle or gurgling like water draining down a gutter, referring to the sounds in the throat of the choking man, or it might be a sound partly like stuttering and partly like gurgling

12. Cud – normally the regurgitated grass that cows chew usually green and bubbling. Here a similar looking material was issuing from the soldier’s mouth

13. High zest – idealistic enthusiasm, keenly believing in the rightness of the idea

14. ardent – keen

15. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – see note 1 above.

These notes are taken from the book, Out in the Dark, Poetry of the First World War, where other war poems that need special explanations are similarly annotated. The ideal book for students getting to grips with the poetry of the First World War.

 

Taken from this site.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on November 10, 2017, in Ancestor Work, Ancestors, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Due to obvious socio political factors the military branches United States are yet again preparing for such contingencies in earnest. Chemical and biological warfare are some of the ugliest aspects of humanity. Radiological and nuclear warfare aren’t much better. Issued gas mask cases have a pouch for an auto syringe of nerve agent antidote and Valium. The antidote is supposedly effective to counteract the effects of most known nerve agents. If you can’t get your mask on in time and start to suffer effects of a possible nerve agent or are otherwise exposed you are trained to inject this antidote into your thigh or buttocks. If another service member is exposed to a chemical agent you are trained to inject them with the antidote they are carrying if they cannot do so. If this doesn’t have any noticeable effect you are supposed to inject them with their Valium syringe. The Valium syringe merely makes the effects whatever agent they were exposed to less dramatic. It negates the level of horror described in that poem, at least visually to observers. There is no real self aid and buddy care training for a CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) environment. If you are shot, hit by shrapnel or otherwise wounded in a way in which you are incapacitated you get the Valium auto injector. If you’re lucky, or not already dead. Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori. Unfortunately not much has changed in the grand scheme of things. As weapons advance the protective measures against them do as well, and vice verso. Potential threats these days are so varied it’s hard to say what would happen if a conflict were to erupt in a CBRNE environment. I think it’s safe to say I want no part in such a scenario. If I’m unlucky enough to find myself in one I hope it’s not raining.

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  2. I’ve always liked this poem. If you get the chance, check out the movie “Behind the Lines” based upon the book “Regeneration” about the time Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon spent in a hospital being treated for PTSD.

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