Dulce et Decorum est is a sonnet, which largely follows the iambic pentameter. It was written by Wilfred Owen a soldier who fought in the first modern war, World War I. It is four stanzas and 27 lines in length. World War I was the deadliest war ever at that point in human history, Wilfred Owen composes a poem with poetic language, such as similes and imagery, to express condemnation of the war and on those who proclaim The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
Dulce et Decorum Est is very much a literal poem, so while rich in similes there are few extended metaphors. The many similes all serve a purpose in getting the reader to understand the severity of the war. Each are evocative and powerful. Such as like old beggars under sacks, Owen’s language here deprives the soldiers of human dignity and health. They are like unto the old and homeless, dispossessed and living a life begging. Also the line flound’ring like a man in fire or lime describes what it was like to be poisoned by the gas shells. This abomination is something Owen surely must have witnessed. He goes on to describe that same scene As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. It is probably the reality that Owen saw many fellow soldiers perish from the poisonous gas. And hear he likens it to drowning, in which someone naturally holds their breath until their brain forces an involuntary breath that leads to their inevitable doom and intense suffering.
Owen’s use of imagery drags the reader into the dreary situation. The cry Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!, makes the reader feel as if they are one of the soldiers. An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time is where one can feel the intense moment of desperation when the gas quickly begins to envelop them, and they must get their mask on or perish by a terrible death, and on a side note, An ecstasy of fumbling’ is a beautiful use of irony. His description of the soldier who fails to put on his gas mask quick enough feels so real and is truly terrifying and utterly revolting, the white eyes writhing in his face the blood come gargling from the forth-corrupted lungs. This was truly an offensive sight for the mind, and you can almost hear what is happening as if you are there. Other lines evoke more pain and suffering like, bitter as the cud/Of vile incurable sores, incurable has a finality to it, those who have the sores will perish. Owen actually uses a farming image there as well. cud’ is half-digested pasture chewed by cattle. And in that sentence, Owen equates humans with animals, as well as conveying the burning effect of the man’s blood which has been contaminated by the gas inhalation.
The overriding theme and the message Owen wants to convey is death and decay. The poem builds upon the despicable abomination that was World War One and the horrific conditions which the soldiers are in to put forth this message, that if you had witness the horrors of the war, you would not tell with such high zest to childrenThe old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. Here he addresses those who are in the home front of the war, those who have not experienced the horrors yet tempt young boys with the prize of glory if they fight and perhaps die for their country. Wilfred Owen was probably one of these boys seeking glory, since he enlisted himself to fight in the war. Because of his experiences, Owen now condemns the war. Dulce et Decorum Est is his testimony of this.
He is quite successful with his use of the poetic language in conveying the message of the brutality of this war. He uses real and terrifying experiences to perfectly showcase the foolishness of such a war. A war that would have been prevented quite easily if not for the ineptness and pride of the world leaders at the time. There were seventeen million deaths in this war, and it is what I think to be the greatest mistake in human history.
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