Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Dulce et Decorum Est

When I wrote my earlier post on Cindy Sheehan's vigil, it was late, middle-of-night late, and it wasn't as eloquent or impassioned as I would have liked. One thing I meant to include but didn't is Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est," reproduced below.

Owen enlisted in the English army to fight in World War I. Once he experienced battle up close and personal, he quickly recognized the incredible waste that is war. Ironically, Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, seven days before the fighting ended.

The final line of the poem is roughly translated as "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country."

Whether you believe in the necessity of any given war or not, let's all please not pretend that war is noble.

Mr. Bush, this one's for you:

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 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.

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