Today is Remembrance Sunday so I decided to share a poem to commemorate the fallen. Everybody knows “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, so I looked for some less well-known ones.
Below is a poem written in 1917 by Wilfred Owen called “Dulce et Decorum est.” The title comes from a quote from the Roman poet Horace which read “Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori”, which in English means “It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.”
I like this poem because it vividly illustrates the reality of trench warfare. Owen is saying that if the reader could witness for themselves the death and destruction they would understand that there is no glory in war.
I find it poignant the fact that Wilfred Owen was killed on 4 November 1918 – only one week before the war ended.
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 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.