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              Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

                    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.


Dulce et decorum est Pro Patria mori is from Horace. Owen wrote in a letter to his mother: "The famous Latin tag means of course It is sweet and meet to die for one's country. Sweet! and decorous!"

Written in 1917 and first published in 1920, the above poem can be found in:

  • Stallworthy, Jon. Wilfred Owen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

    Early drafts of the poem contain the dedications 'To Jessie Pope etc' and 'To a certain Poetess'. Before World War I, Pope was the author children's books and light verse, her war related verse was collected in 1915 in Jessie Pope's War Poems and More War Poems.