A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poem of the Day: Wilfred Owen

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 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.
--Wilfred Owen

Anger is not an emotion conducive to great poetry, except perhaps when it finds its outlet in satire, as in the best poems of Dryden and Pope. And except when the anger is the great anger of war. (The Wrath of Achilles, for example.) And except when the poet is as equal to the task as Owen was, and the war was as futile, brutal, causeless and useless as the First World War.