Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen
"Dulce et decorum est" is a poem written by the poet Wilfred Owen
during the First World War. It was written to portray the reality of
war. In it he describes the horrors he witnessed as a soldier from the
front line of battle. The aim of the poem was to tell people that
Jessie Pope, a poet who was encouraging young men to go to war because
it was glorious, was wrong.
The poem starts with soldiers marching away from the battlefield. They
have just been in battle and are heading back to their rest areas:
Owen describes the way in which the soldiers are walking. They are
bent double with exhaustion and fatigue. They walk in a crooked
stance. They are unable to walk properly; it is too much effort so
they walk leaning over almost collapsing but not quite.
The way that the soldiers look is portrayed in the poem:
"like old beggars under sacks"
The soldiers have been in a bloody battle, they are dirty and shabby.
Owen describes them as like beggars because they remind him of
homeless people with rags for clothes, uncomfortable and undesirable.
Their clothes look like sacks, battered and torn.
The men are "knock-kneed". The men are probably shaking with terror
and lack of sleep and nutrition. This means that their knees are
likely to be shaking therefore giving the impression that their knees
are knocking. Owen uses alliteration to again represent the extreme
exhaustion of the soldiers.
The soldiers are,
"coughing like hags"
They probably caught lung diseases from the appalling conditions in
the trenches and being so close to people all the time. They sound
like hags because their coughing is rasping and consumptive like that
of hags. This is just one of the examples where Owen uses a simile to
put forward his point.
The troop swore as they moved through the debris:
"we cursed through the sludge"
They curse the fact that they have to drag their feet through the mud
and waste of war. As they have to drag their feet through the slush on
the ground it will slow down the process of getting to the rest areas.
In the third line the poet describes the flares as "haunting" to the
soldiers. The flares that Owen describes were the flares sent up to
light the battlefield that the soldiers have turned their backs on.
The word suggests that the men are struggling to escape their memories
of war but are constantly being reminded of it. It is as if they are
making an effort to turn their backs on the horror.
Line four tells of the men,
"trudging to their distant rest"
It must seem like an eternity before the soldiers can finally relax.
However the line can be interpreted in different ways. It could mean
that although the rest station is not that far away it seems like it
because of the slow...