“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen
“Dulce et Decorum Est” is a poem written by Wilfred Owen after his experience of fighting in World War I. The title is a Latin clause meaning it is worthy to die for one’s country. However, Wilfred Owen shares the reverse opinion, implying that it is an awful death. Due to its language and visualization, the poem still resonates with people, making them think about the realities vividly pictured in it. The poet took a widespread notion about the glory of dying at war and used his poetic skill to show the reader it is the wrong idea.
“Dulce et Decorum Est” arises many themes, although all of them are centered on war, picturing a soldier’s experience and comparing the realities with the glorified perceptions of battles. The reader can see propaganda as one of the major subjects of the poem. The author attempts to show the way different sources idealized war, portraying it as a noble act but not as an event bringing disaster. The poem also portraits an untypical concept of a hero, suggesting that soldiers keeping their heads down survive longer than those trying to display valor. One more subject is patriotism, which created the dreams of many men who entered the war. However, at the moment they saw all the horrors, this image began to seem ridiculous. All of the themes hidden in the poem are aimed at proving the author’s position about the war being horrible and devastating.
The poet uses many literary devices when creating pictures of war in order to enrich the text and make it more vivid and meaningful. One of the widely used patterns is simile, as can be seen in the lines as “like a devil’s sick of sin” (Owen 19). It is aimed at making the text more colorful and interesting for the reader. There is also a metaphor used in the poem to show the physical state of the soldiers: “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots” (Owen 7). Moreover, imagery is used throughout the poem to make the readers feel all the emotions. Many vivid images are included in the text to create a picture of war, such as “had lost their boots” to immerse the reader into the atmosphere of pain and disaster (Owen 5). It is aimed at allowing the audience experience real feelings of warriors. The analysis of the poem shows that the author skillfully used his personal experience together with literary devices in order to create a special atmosphere targeted at attracting people’s attention to the realities of war.
In the poem, there are two major symbols supporting the poet’s perceptions. The first is disfiguration, showing the way war alters everything, including the human body, which is eventually destroyed. It can be seen in the first lines of the poem: “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags” (Owen 1). The poet implies that the soldiers are not the men they used to be before the battle. The second symbol is the concept of the nightmare, as Owen presents the war as a horror, which is impossible to understand. However, all the atrocities, which happened to the soldiers are not a dream. The way the poet showed the war as a nightmare adds to the terror the poem arouses. All the symbols used in the text are aimed at supporting the author’s position about was bringing nothing but disasters.
In conclusion, Wilfred Owen created a poem, which resonates even today. The poet attempted to prove that the perceptions of war as a glorious act are wrong. The fact is that there is nothing noble in dying at war, and soldiers realize the whole concept of patriotism is wrong as soon as they come to battle and witness all the horrors. The poet used unique symbols and literary devices, such as metaphors and hyperboles, to provide proof to his position, and make the reader terrified with the poem and the concept of war.
Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce et Decorum Est” , Poetry Foundation. Web.
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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Dulce Et Decorum Est — Wilfred Owen’s View Of The War In His Poem Dulce Et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen’s View of The War in His Poem Dulce Et Decorum Est
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About this sample
- Lutz, Kimberly. 'Overview of 'Dulce et Decorum Est'.' Poetry for Students, edited by Michael L. LaBlanc, vol. 10, Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1420031148/GLS?u=tel_a_nestcc&sid=GLS&xid=1c66139b
- Moran, Daniel. 'Overview of 'Dulce et Decorum Est'.' Poetry for Students, edited by Michael L. LaBlanc, vol. 10, Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1420031146/GLS?u=tel_a_nestcc&sid=GLS&xid=4a471efd
- Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce Et Decorum Est” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by Kelly J. Mays, shorter 12th ed., 2016, Norton, pp. 878-879
- Puymbroeck, Birgit Van, and Cedric Van Dijck. 'Apollinaire's Trench Journalism and the Affective Public Sphere.' Texas Studies in Literature and Language, vol. 60, no. 3, 2018. Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A555548063/GLS?u=tel_a_nestcc&sid=GLS&xid=9e4e1db7
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Dulce et Decorum Est Summary & Analysis by Wilfred Owen
- Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis
- Poetic Devices
- Vocabulary & References
- Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme
- Line-by-Line Explanations
"Dulce et Decorum Est" is a poem by the English poet Wilfred Owen. Like most of Owen's work, it was written between August 1917 and September 1918, while he was fighting in World War 1. Owen is known for his wrenching descriptions of suffering in war. In "Dulce et Decorum Est," he illustrates the brutal everyday struggle of a company of soldiers, focuses on the story of one soldier's agonizing death, and discusses the trauma that this event left behind. He uses a quotation from the Roman poet Horace to highlight the difference between the glorious image of war (spread by those not actually fighting in it) and war's horrifying reality.
- Read the full text of “Dulce et Decorum Est”
The Full Text of “Dulce et Decorum Est”
1 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
2 Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
3 Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
4 And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
5 Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
6 But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
7 Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
8 Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
9 Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
10 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
11 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
12 And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
13 Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
14 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
15 In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
16 He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
17 If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
18 Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
19 And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
20 His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
21 If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
22 Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
23 Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
24 Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
25 My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
26 To children ardent for some desperate glory,
27 The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
28 Pro patria mori .
“Dulce et Decorum Est” Summary
“dulce et decorum est” themes.
The Horror and Trauma of War
- See where this theme is active in the poem.
The Enduring Myth that War is Glorious
Line-by-line explanation & analysis of “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 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 .
“Dulce et Decorum Est” Symbols
The Dying Soldier
- See where this symbol appears in the poem.
“Dulce et Decorum Est” Poetic Devices & Figurative Language
- See where this poetic device appears in the poem.
“Dulce et Decorum Est” Vocabulary
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
- Haunting flares
- See where this vocabulary word appears in the poem.
Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme of “Dulce et Decorum Est”
Rhyme scheme, “dulce et decorum est” speaker, “dulce et decorum est” setting, literary and historical context of “dulce et decorum est”, more “dulce et decorum est” resources, external resources.
Biography of Wilfred Owen — A detailed biographical sketch of Wilfred Owen's life, including analysis of his work.
An Overview of Chemical Warfare — A concise historical account of the development of chemical weapons, with detailed descriptions of the poison gases used in WWI.
Listen to "Dulce et Decorum Est" — A recording of "Dulce et Decorum Est," provided by the Poetry Foundation.
Representing the Great War — The Norton Anthology's overview of literary representation of World War I, with accompanying texts. This includes two of Jessie Pope's patriotic poems, as well as poems by Siegfried Sassoon and others and various contemporary illustrations. It also suggests many additional resources for exploration.
Horace, Ode 3.2 — One translation of the Horace ode that the lines "Dulce et Decorum Est" originally appear in.
Digital Archive of Owen's Life and Work — An archive of scanned documents from Owen's life and work, including his letters, as well as several handwritten drafts of "Dulce et Decorum Est" and other poems.
The White Feather — A brief personal essay about the treatment of conscientious objectors in WWI-era Britain.
LitCharts on Other Poems by Wilfred Owen
Anthem for Doomed Youth
The Next War