In light of Veterans’ Day, I can think of so many poems, famous and naught, that give beautiful tribute to veterans of all wars. However, this year, I feel the need to reach back to one of the most heart wrenching poems I learned when I was in high school. Wilfred Owen was a poet and a World War I soldier; a second lieutenant for the British. He wrote a poem about mustard gas and the horrid, torturous death that came with a gas attack in trenches. War is not all fun and games. It’s always about just one soldier or another. It’s about the entire military, as each soldier, each veteran is a brother-in-arms. With no further ado, I give you Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est”.
“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.*
* “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.”
“Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen can be found in the public domain.