DULCE ET DECORUM EST1
By Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares2 we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest3 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 hoots4
Of tired, outstripped5 Five-Nines6 that dropped behind.
Gas!7 Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets8 just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime9 . . .
Dim, through the misty panes10 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,11 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 cud12
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest13
To children ardent14 for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.15
8 October 1917 – March, 1918
To see the source of Wilfred Owen’s ideas about muddy conditions see his letter in Wilfred Owen’s First Encounter with the Reality of War. Notes copyright © David Roberts and Saxon Books 1998 and 1999. Free use by students for personal use only. The poem appears in both Out in the Dark and Minds at War, but the notes are only found in Out in the Dark. Copyright © 1999 Saxon Books.
1. Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce Et Decorum Est: Best Known Poem of the First World War.” The War Poetry Web Site. 1999. Saxon Books. 04 December 2007. <http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html>.