Monday, November 12, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 25 - Dulce Et Decorum Est

As someone born on Remembrance Day, I have carried the 'laying down of arms' to heart all of my life. Inside of me there's a warrior spirit, ready to stand and protect, to do the hardest of duties. But guiding my tongue is the spirit of the peace dove. I seek to diffuse, to calm, to find that win-win.

For today's Poetry Monday, I want to share this convention-breaking poem written by a World War I soldier. Wilfred Owen is part of a select group known as war poets. Already writing sophisticated poetry before he served, Owen continued to write throughout the war.

"He threw himself into combat, often recklessly. While his unit was crossing a canal near the village of Ors in pursuit of the retreating German forces, Owen was shot and killed by the water's edge. He was only 25 - and the war was just seven days from its end." (British Library, Online Gallery, English Literature)

The title translates to 'It is sweet and right'

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 disappointed shells 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 floundering 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 - 1917

"Dulce et decorum est" - "It is sweet and right"
"Pro patria mori" - "To die for the homeland"

Painting - "Gassed", 1919 by John Singer Sargent

Photograph of Wilfred Owen's Manchester Regiment in No Man's Land


Mother of Invention said...

Nice post for today and Happy Birthday. It is nice to meet another Canadian blogger as there seems to be very few of us.
Thanks for visiting and commenting on my dad's poem.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, and Happy Remembrance Day! What a touching poem -- stirring and poignant.

Jill said...

Happy Birthday,Julia!! Did you say like my cousin that you did always have the day off of school for your birthday as a child??
That poem really transmit the darkness of that period!!

julia said...

Hey Jill - Happy Birthday to your cousin! Yes, I always had the day off from school. Military town and all that. I have to say I was shocked when I moved to Toronto and discovered that the City of Corporations didn't shut down on the 11th like Halifax does.

Rhian said...

oh wow - powerful poem and painful. i kept feeling my breath catch reading it.

happy bday! make merry and may all wishes be granted!

Jill said...

You are starring in a movie at my other blog!! You have to be warn that it is an action movie!!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Happy birthday, darling!!

This is a hell of a poem. It proves my point a million times over: violence against each other solves absolutely nothing. I'll shut up now before a soap box magically appears under my feet...

julia said...

Susan - I love soapbox people. Just ask my friend Alan!

Missy said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's a moving poem. Do you think we could compare the War Poets of the past to the current military bloggers? It's interesting to think of the similarities and differences of each generation and war.

Shelley Munro said...

We call it Armistice Day here in NZ but it's not a holiday. Awesome poem and very apt.

gautami tripathy said...

Wish you a Happy Birthday.

A moving poem and a poignant painting.

Akelamalu said...

I missed your birthday?????

How could I?


This is such a powerful poem and a great post for Remembrance Day.

Wylie Kinson said...

Julia - I thought In Flanders Field was the only war poem that made the tears flow... You proved me wrong. This one was much 'rawer' (is that a word?), much less gentle for the reader. So moving...

And Happy Birthday!!

Red Garnier said...

Wow what a powerful poem. And Julia, toot toot! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I wish you the best for this special day, love and laughter and happiness and many many more years like these! Warm hugs from Red!

Isabella Snow said...

Happy Birthday! And I love that photo, he looks pretty Errol Flynn!!

Camille Alexa said...

S is very interested in WWI movies. He recently saw and loved Joyeux Noel. I couldn't bring myself to watch it. I was feeling too weepy.

Camille Alexa said...

Oh, and Happy Birthday?!?!

Karina said...

Beautiful, and sad tribute.

Happy Birthday!!!!

Kelly Boyce said...

Great post! And Happy birthday, Julia! Sorry I missed it yesterday. Blame it on the sugar shock from the Starbucks write in!

Joy Renee said...

my sentiments exactly!

my dad's dad served in that war. He wouldn't talk about it. he left with thick black Scotch-Irish hair and came home with pure white.

his 19 year old great-grandson, my brother's eldest is serving in Iraq (at least on his way,he may still be in Kuwait)

Happy birthday from a fellow November baby.

Christine d'Abo said...

I remember doing this poem in school. I always enjoyed hearing the teacher read it out loud.

STAK said...

Strong,strong poem.......

and as i see, you are due birthday wishes..........

Sparky Duck said...

Now this was a fitting poem because even though it was a poem, he still captured the historical tone.

Danika / OpenChannel said...

Happy Birthday and good choice. I've always liked that poem and used to teach it in the high schools, usually in comparison to a more "patriotic" poem. This one pulls no punches.

Amy Ruttan said...

Touching poem. You got to hand it to those WWI Vets (Who my late great grandfather was a part of Dieppe and SURVIVED) they were through a lot of hardship.

Amy Ruttan said...

Oh and Happy Birthday sweetie!!!