essay about dulce et decorum est

Dulce et Decorum Est Summary & Analysis by Wilfred Owen

  • Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis
  • Poetic Devices
  • Vocabulary & References
  • Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme
  • Line-by-Line Explanations

essay about dulce et decorum est

"Dulce et Decorum Est" is a poem by the English poet Wilfred Owen. Like most of Owen's work, it was written between August 1917 and September 1918, while he was fighting in World War 1. Owen is known for his wrenching descriptions of suffering in war. In "Dulce et Decorum Est," he illustrates the brutal everyday struggle of a company of soldiers, focuses on the story of one soldier's agonizing death, and discusses the trauma that this event left behind. He uses a quotation from the Roman poet Horace to highlight the difference between the glorious image of war (spread by those not actually fighting in it) and war's horrifying reality.

  • Read the full text of “Dulce et Decorum Est”

essay about dulce et decorum est

The Full Text of “Dulce et Decorum Est”

1 Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

2 Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

3 Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

4 And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

5 Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

6 But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

7 Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

8 Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

9 Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling

10 Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

11 But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

12 And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—

13 Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

14 As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

15 In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

16 He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

17 If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

18 Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

19 And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

20 His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

21 If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

22 Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

23 Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

24 Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

25 My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

26 To children ardent for some desperate glory,

27 The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

28 Pro patria mori .

“Dulce et Decorum Est” Summary

“dulce et decorum est” themes.

Theme The Horror and Trauma of War

The Horror and Trauma of War

  • See where this theme is active in the poem.

Theme The Enduring Myth that War is Glorious

The Enduring Myth that War is Glorious

Line-by-line explanation & analysis of “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.

essay about dulce et decorum est

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 gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

Lines 11-14

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.

Lines 15-16

In all my dreams before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

Lines 17-20

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;

Lines 21-24

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,—

Lines 25-28

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” Symbols

Symbol The Dying Soldier

The Dying Soldier

  • See where this symbol appears in the poem.

“Dulce et Decorum Est” Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

  • See where this poetic device appears in the poem.

“Dulce et Decorum Est” Vocabulary

Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.

  • Knock-kneed
  • Haunting flares
  • Flound'ring
  • Froth-corrupted
  • See where this vocabulary word appears in the poem.

Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme of “Dulce et Decorum Est”

Rhyme scheme, “dulce et decorum est” speaker, “dulce et decorum est” setting, literary and historical context of “dulce et decorum est”, more “dulce et decorum est” resources, external resources.

Biography of Wilfred Owen — A detailed biographical sketch of Wilfred Owen's life, including analysis of his work.

An Overview of Chemical Warfare — A concise historical account of the development of chemical weapons, with detailed descriptions of the poison gases used in WWI.

Listen to "Dulce et Decorum Est" — A recording of "Dulce et Decorum Est," provided by the Poetry Foundation.

Representing the Great War — The Norton Anthology's overview of literary representation of World War I, with accompanying texts. This includes two of Jessie Pope's patriotic poems, as well as poems by Siegfried Sassoon and others and various contemporary illustrations. It also suggests many additional resources for exploration.

Horace, Ode 3.2 — One translation of the Horace ode that the lines "Dulce et Decorum Est" originally appear in. 

Digital Archive of Owen's Life and Work — An archive of scanned documents from Owen's life and work, including his letters, as well as several handwritten drafts of "Dulce et Decorum Est" and other poems.

The White Feather — A brief personal essay about the treatment of conscientious objectors in WWI-era Britain.

LitCharts on Other Poems by Wilfred Owen

Anthem for Doomed Youth

Mental Cases

Spring Offensive

Strange Meeting

The Next War

Everything you need for every book you read.

The LitCharts.com logo.

Dulce et Decorum Est 101: Summary, Analysis, & Questions and Answers

Dulce et Decorum Est 101: Summary, Analysis, & Questions and Answers

“Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen concentrates on the shocking details of events soldiers came through in World War I. Owen recalls the war realities by showing readers the soldiers’ urgency when faced with death.

Dulce et Decorum est. Poem by Wilfred Owen.

If you’re stuck with writing a paper on the poem, you’re in the right place! Below, you will find the Dulce et Decorum Est analysis, summary, answers to the most common questions. And don’t forget to check our free essay examples .

Let’s start!

  • Literary Devices
  • Language: Meter, Rhythm, Rhyme Scheme, Tone
  • Essay Ideas
  • Questions and Answers

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Summary

The author paints a group of marching soldiers in a muddy landscape. The soldiers are tired and sick. They are coughing like older adults, and their knees are shaking. Besides, they are far from the fighting spirit. Some of them walk like they seem to be sleeping. Some even lost their boots, and their feet are bleeding.

At the same time, they carry heavy packs while going away from light flares, used by the German army to spot an enemy by lighting up the territory. Their destination is a distant camp.

Soldiers are worn out physically and mentally. Their perception is clouded as if they were drunk. They can hardly recognize an impending threat.

Suddenly, one from the group warns about a gas attack so that soldiers can put on their protecting helmets. Everyone manages to do it on time, except for one soldier. The author saw his suffering and agony.

The soldier death reminded Owen of someone caught in fire or lime, used to blind the enemy in ancient times. He compares this terrible scene with drowning in the ocean, not underwater, but in the air full of poisonous gas.

Then, the reader is brought into the author’s post-war reality. Even years later, Owen did not escape the picture of yelling and dying in front of his eyes comrade-in-arms.

After sharing his grievous experience, the author turns to the readers and states a straightforward thing. It lies in the fact that if they took his boots and walked a mile, they would never have said to their children the war is glorious.

The author recalls marching behind a wagon with a dying wrecked-face soldier, who reminds of someone passing away from cancer or other diseases. Such memories dispel an “old lie” that dying for one’s country is sweet and fitting.

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Literary Analysis

We approach the literary analysis of the Dulce Et Decorum Est. You will understand the poem’s themes, the literary devices the author used, and the poem’s language.

Let’s go!

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Theme.

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Theme

The author illustrates the relationship between reality and heroic ideals. He does it via two central themes: patriotism and its false glory and horrors of war .

The poem’s title and final lines, “Dulce et Decorum Est,” are from Horace’s Ode 3.2 . The bar is a Latin equivalent for “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” It echoes powerfully in the hearts of the young, showing only the heroic and romantic side of patriotic death and other sacrifices “for good.”

In reality, it’s far from that. The author argues such a way of war glorification, calling it an “old Lie.” Each horror depicted from the “on-site” shatters the enduring myth that the war is glorious.

Line by line, the poem shows how terrible and horrifying the war experience is. One thing is clear: if the reader could see and feel all the author’s horror, they would not talk so zealously about patriotism and the delights of war.

All the above is bolstered by the third theme: the traumatic war’s impact on humans . In this context, possible terrible emotional or physical pains will not get better with time. The lasting effects of war trauma barely level out all the arrogance and glory of war.

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Literary Devices

Now, we will stop on Dulce Et Decorum Est literary devices. To express the main idea, the author used several poetic techniques, including:

Let’s explore Dulce Et Decorum’s literary devices and look at a few examples of their application.

The author successfully uses many similes to make the terror visible. Thanks to them, it is easier for readers to perceive the pain, horrific images, and agony.

One of the examples is in the very beginning: “ like old beggars under sacks ” — soldiers are shown not as brave mighty heroes, but as the homeless and weak tramps who beg for a living.

Here is the list of other same-purpose phrases: “ coughing like hags ,” “ like a devil’s sick of sin ,” “ obscene as cancer ,” “ like a man in fire or lime ,” “ as under a green sea ,” and “ bitter as the cud .”

Dulce et Decorum Es is so literal that it has only a single metaphor . It is used in the poem to make vivid imagery of the soldiers’ physical state. The metaphors are the compelling phrases, namely, “ drunk with fatigue ” and “ deaf even to the hoots .”

We have already touched a bit upon the symbolic elements in the poem’s imagery. Symbolism pictures the WWI experience like a nightmare rather than a real-life event.

The first symbolic element author introduces a green sea in which one of the soldiers “dies” after a gas attack, as he could not put on a mask on time. It can be explained by what Owen saw then: a gas fog through the mask glass.

Using this symbol in pair with the verb “drowning” transmits the painful and cruel way the soldier died. Besides, it builds the link between drowning in the ocean and gas suffocation. It is easier for readers to imagine the terrible feeling of lacking enough oxygen underwater.

The irony shows up in the poem’s very beginning. First, the reader sees the title Dulce et Decorum Est, meaning the poem will show how great it is to fight for the homeland. The first line is opposite to something glorious and sweet.

Reading more into the poem opens up terrifying things about war gradually. The author uses irony to express the violence, making the phrase in the title an illusion.

Oxymorons in Dulce et Decorum Est.

Along with irony and other poetic techniques, the author uses oxymorons . Two contradictory words used together make an oxymoron.

In phrase “ To children ardent for some desperate glory ,” the initially negative “ desperate ” word is combined with the joyous “ glory .” Another oxymoron is “ An ecstasy of fumbling ,” where the opposing state of extreme happiness combines with an awkward way of doing something.

With oxymorons, Owen produces a dramatic effect. The poem forces the reader to stop and think about the whole complexity of war and man’s place in it.

Dulce Et Decorum Est Language: Meter, Rhythm, Rhyme Scheme, Tone

The language of the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est is composed of several poetic devices, including meter, rhythm, rhyme scheme, and tone. Let’s describe each of them:

  • Meter. The poem is composed of five-syllable pairs. Each pair’s first syllable is unstressed, and the second is stressed. The Dulce Et Decorum Est meter pattern is iambic pentameter.
  • Rhythm. Combined with other techniques, the poem’s somber rhythm expresses imagery. The words themselves are rumbling. They collide to paint a horrific picture of the field where soldiers march. What is more, it is evocative of the rhythm of the heart.
  • Rhyme scheme. Although the poem’s meter is rather complex, the rhyme pattern is simple. The rhyme scheme in Dulce Et Decorum Est is ABABCDCD. The author manages with simple words and no more than double rhyme sounds repetition.
  • Tone. The poem’s tone is bitter, angry, and critical. The trauma and self-recrimination heat the speaker’s voice. That’s why he so accurately conveys all the fears and horrors he endured. Along with the angry tone, the ironically used “my friend” addressing those supporting an “old lie” impacts them more intensely.

Now, we move on to the poem’s setting.

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Setting

Owen does not give the exact setting location, but it is clear from the context that the action takes place in 1917 winter in France.

What is this context?

The poem is written during Wilfred Owen’s actual WWI experience . Here when he wrote letters with stories of the dying soldier.

Besides, there are elements in the poem, which serve as a clue to understanding the setting.

The most evident is green chlorine gas, deployed by the German army since 1915, and “clumsy helmets” or gas masks, used as gas attacks responsive measure.

Gas shells and flares are also WWI-specific elements. Soldiers never used them before.

The setting breaks into the past and present in terms of the author. After two stanzas, we shift to his indeterminate present in the past. It shows us that his horrors did not leave him even in the postwar peacetime.

Dulce Et Decorum Est Essay Ideas

Now that you have explored the poem analysis, it’s time to write the Dulce et Decorum Est analysis essay. We gathered 15 essay topic ideas to make things simple. Please, pick any from the list:

  • Dulce Et Decorum Est poem figurative language
  • Dulce Et Decorum Est poem literary devices
  • Irony in poem Dulce Et Decorum Est
  • Symbolism in poem Dulce Et Decorum Est
  • What is the theme of the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est?
  • How does Wilfred Owen describe the horrors of war in the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est?
  • The brutality of war in the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est
  • How does Wilfred Owen convey the human costs of war in the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est?
  • Illustration of First World War in the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
  • Literary devices and themes in Dulce Et Decorum Est
  • Dulce Et Decorum Est: is it charming to die for one’s country?
  • Why was Dulce Et Decorum Est written: literary and historical context?
  • What is the Dulce Et Decorum Est message?
  • The portrayal of death in Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
  • Depiction of tragedies of war in the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est

If the topics are not enough and you still have any questions, we suggest you check out an example of a ready-made Dulce et Decorum Est and The Things they Carried: Compare & Contrast Essay .

To help you finally delve into the topic, we gathered the most frequently asked questions and comprehensive answers to them below.

Dulce Et Decorum Est: Questions and Answers

Below you will find comprehensive Dulce et Decorum Est questions and answers.

Who Wrote Dulce Et Decorum Est?

Dulce et Decorum Est was written by Wilfred Edward Salter Owen , an English soldier, and poet. He was born on 18 March 1893 near Oswestry in Shropshire. Among the First World War poets, he was almost the leading one.

At the time he lived, ideas and themes he erased in his poetry were in contrast to the perception of war by the public. As ideas of anti-militarism developed, his poems became increasingly recognized. Here are several examples: “ Anthem for Doomed Youth ,” “ Strange Meeting ,” “ Insensibility ,” and “ Spring Offensive .” All of them were published posthumously.

On 4 November, at the age of 25, Owen was killed while leading his men across the Sambre and Oise Canal.

When Was Dulce Et Decorum Est Written?

Like most of Wilfred Owen’s works, Dulce et Decorum Est was written between August 1917 and September 1918. At that time, Owen was fighting in the First World War. Most likely, it was written in 1917 when he was at the Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh.

What Does Dulce Et Decorum Est Mean?

Dulce et Decorum Est is a citation from the Roman poet Horace’s Ode 3.2. The literal meaning of it is “it’s sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

The author aims at deconstructing this myth. In the last stanza, he calls it an “old lie.”

Owen successfully showed the difference between the horrifying reality of war and its glorious image, usually spread by those not even fighting in it.

What Is Dulce Et Decorum Est About?

Originally written as a personal letter, Owen later decided to appeal to a broader audience of all war supporters. The poem is highly emotional, making it one of the most popular condemnations of the war.

Dulce et Decorum Est begins with an image of weary soldiers walking from the front lines through thick mud. Then, there is a gas attack, in which one of the soldiers dies.

What Happened in the Poem Dulce et Decorum Est?

The poem tells us the story of a group of soldiers, “ drunk with fatigue ,” forced to make their way “through the mud” to take shelter from the explosive shells that fall on their rear.

Then gas shells fell around them. The soldiers rushed to put on their gas masks. In a rush, one of them is caught gassed. The author sees him “screaming again and stumbling.” Then, he sees him yelling in agony as he is drowning in the green sea.

When the attack was over, they proceeded on their way, but their mate was in the wagon, with white eyes and coughing up blood.

Who Is the Speaker in the Poem Dulce et Decorum Est?

The poem, composed of 28 free iambic pentameters, lets us hear the voice of the poet himself . Owen appears here as a soldier with a deep incurable emotional trauma left after the war and its horrifying events.

Why Was Dulce Et Decorum Est Written?

Discussing war horrors in the abstract does not require much effort. Owen managed to depict those horrors in a specifically devastating way. What’s more, he shows in the poem that every aspect of war is terrible. Starting from a soldier’s daily life, continuing to the death in an attack, and postwar traumatized body and mind.

The author is very disappointed with the war. A reader can see it in the last few lines of the last stanza.

How Does Dulce et Decorum Est Make the Reader Feel?

The way the author uses language to put the audience inside the events helps them understand the terrible experience of awful aspects of war.

What Is the Message of Dulce et Decorum Est?

The central tension lies between the reality of the war and the government’s portrayal of war. They paint it as sweet and fitting to die for your homeland. The message that Owen conveys is the reality of the cruel and horrific war.

Why Is Dulce Et Decorum Est Important?

The poem lies genre of protest poetry because it shows the horror and reality of war, specifically the First World War. Dulce et Decorum Est sets this horror against how war is so often glorified.

  • Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” — English Emory
  • Horace, Ode 3.2 
  • Biography of Wilfred Owen
  • Wilfred Owen: Biography & War Poet
  • Digital Archive of Owen’s Life and Work 
  • Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est: Summary & Analysis
  • Dr. Santanu Das explores the manuscript for Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” Video on the British Library’s World War I website
  • Ian McMillan asks if “Dulce et Decorum est” has distorted our view of WWI Video on the BBC’s iWonder website
  • Manuscript version of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ The Poetry Manuscripts of Wilfred Owen on the British Library’s website
  • Listen to “Dulce et Decorum Est” 
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A Short Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’

By Dr Oliver Tearle

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ or, to give the phrase in full: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori , Latin for ‘it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country’ ( patria is where we get our word ‘patriotic’ from). The phrase originated in the Roman poet Horace, but in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) famously rejects this idea.

For Owen, who had experienced the horrors of trench warfare and a gas attack, there was nothing sweet, and nothing fitting, about giving one’s life for one’s country. Focusing in particular on one moment in the First World War, when Owen and his platoon are attacked with poison gas, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is a studied analysis of suffering and perhaps the most famous anti-war poem ever written.

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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’: background

In October 1917, Wilfred Owen wrote to his mother from Craiglockhart Hospital: ‘Here is a gas poem, done yesterday……..the famous Latin tag (from Horace, Odes) means of course it is sweet and meet to die for one’s country. Sweet! and decorous!’

Although he drafted the poem that October, the surviving drafts of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ show that Owen revised and revisited it on several occasions thereafter, before his death the following November – one week before the Armistice.

Although he wrote all his poetry while he was still a young man – he died aged just 25, like the poet he so admired, John Keats – Wilfred Owen was a master of form and metre, although the extent to which ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is carefully structured is not necessarily apparent from reading it (and certainly not from hearing it read aloud).

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: form

The first two stanzas, comprising eight lines and six lines respectively, form a traditional 14-line sonnet, with an octave (eight-line section) and sestet (six-line section).

essay about dulce et decorum est

The line break after the fourteenth line only brings this home: there’s a pause, and then we find ourselves returning to the word ‘drowning’, locked in it, fixating on that word, ‘drowning’ to describe the helpless state of the poor soldier suffocating from poison gas. The helplessness, of course, is Owen’s too, being unable to do anything for his falling comrade: all we can do is watch in horror.

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: imagery

The imagery is as striking and memorable as the structure, though a little more explicit: the first stanza bombards us with a series of similes for the exhausted men trudging through mud (‘like old beggars’, ‘coughing like hags’) and more direct metaphors (‘blood-shod’ suggesting feet caked in blood, implying trench-foot and cut legs; with ‘shod’ putting us in mind of horses, perhaps being used to plough a very different kind of muddy field; and ‘drunk with fatigue’ bitterly reminding us that this isn’t some sort of beer-fuelled jolly, a bunch of friends out for a night on the town).

Then we are shocked by the double cry of ‘Gas! GAS!’ at the beginning of the second stanza, with the two successive heavy stresses grabbing our attention, much as the cry from one soldier to his comrades is designed to – and they all fumble for their masks, struggling to put them in place to protect them against the deadly gas attack.

essay about dulce et decorum est

Even after he physically witnessed the soldier dying from the effects of the poison gas, Owen cannot forget it: it haunts his dreams, a recurring nightmare. The recurrence of the word ‘drowning’ neatly conveys this.

In that final stanza, Owen turns what until now has been a descriptive poem into a piece of anti-war propaganda, responding with brilliant irony to the patriotic poets such as Jessie Pope (whom Owen specifically has in mind here), who wrote jingoistic doggerel that encouraged young men to enlist and ‘do their bit for king and country’.

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: further analysis

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 people like Pope, Owen argues, addressing her directly (‘If in some smothering dreams you too could pace…’), could witness what he has witnessed, and were forced to relive it in their dreams and waking thoughts every day and night, they would not in all good conscience be able to write such pro-war poetry, knowing they were encouraging more men to share the horrific fate of the soldier Owen had seen killed.

Jessie Pope and her ilk would not be able to feed the ‘Old Lie’, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori , to impressionable young men (some of them so young they are still ‘children’: it’s worth remembering that some boys lied about their age so they could join up) who are ‘ardent for some desperate glory’.

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is a fine example of Owen’s superb craftsmanship as a poet: young he may have been, and valuable as his poetry is as a window onto the horrors of the First World War, in the last analysis the reason we value his response to the horrific events he witnessed is that he put them across in such emotive but controlled language, using imagery at once true and effective.

As he put it in the draft preface he wrote for his poems: ‘My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity.’

essay about dulce et decorum est

Image (top): Wilfred Owen (author unknown: image taken from 1920 edition of  Poems of Wilfred Owen ),  Wikimedia Commons . Image (bottom): John Singer Sargent,  Gassed , via Wikimedia Commons .

8 thoughts on “A Short Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’”

  • Pingback: 10 Classic Wilfred Owen Poems Everyone Should Read | Interesting Literature
  • Pingback: The Best War Poems Everyone Should Read | Interesting Literature

Excellent analysis of a great poem.

Thank you :)

Wilfred Owen is one of the many talented war poets that inspired me to love literature!

Good piece here on a powerful poem. And I still think ‘Disabled’ is his best…

  • Pingback: Sunday Post – 11th March, 2018 | Brainfluff

A very good analysis of one of my favourite poems. Arguably the best of any war poet.

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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 gas-shells dropping softly 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.

Summary of Dulce et Decorum Est

  •   Popularity: “ Dulce et Decorum Est” is a famous anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen. It was first published in 1920. The poem presents strong criticism of the war and its aftermath. The poet details the horrors of the gas warfare during WW1, and the miserable plight of the soldiers caught in it makes up the major point of the argument of the poet. Since its publication, the poem has won immense popularity on account of the presentation of the brutalities of war.
  • “Dulce et Decorum Est” as Criticism on War: As this poem is written in the context of war, the poet describes the gruesome experiences of war. As a soldier in the WW1, he experienced the sufferings of the war and its pains. By depicting the death and destruction caused by the war, he declares that war is not a heroic deed. Many innocent souls are lost for the sake of their country. He considers war as a devil’s work that brings violence, destruction, and ruination to the people. In the first part of the poem, he tells about a specific war-related past event. The tired, limping and wounded soldiers are returning from the battlefield when there is a gas attack, and the speaker observes the helplessness of coughing, choking and dying soldiers. He seems immoveable from the incident when he watches a soldier succumbing to the deadly gas. Later, this image of the floundering soldier constantly haunts him. The second part of the poem further illustrates the pathetic and frenzied events of the war. What enchants the readers is the lifelike images of traumatic incidents demonstrated by the poet to explain the inhumanity of war.
  • Major Themes of “Dulce et Decorum Est” : Death and horrors of war are the major themes of the poem. The poet incorporates these themes with the help of appropriate imagery . He says that those who have lived these miserable moments will never glorify war. He negates the glorious description of the war by presenting the brutal graphic realities of the battlefield. These themes are foregrounded in powerful phrases such as “like old beggars under sacks,” “haunting flares”, “blood-shod”,” guttering, choking, drowning” just to show that the poem depicts this universal thematic idea.

Analysis of the Literary Devices used in “Dulce et Decorum Est”

literary devices are used to bring richness and clarity to the texts. The writers and poets use them to make their texts appealing and meaningful. Owen has also employed some literary devices in this poem to present the mind-disturbing pictures of the war. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been discussed below.

  • Alliteration : Alliteration is the use of the same consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ in “ But someone still was yelling out and stumbling” and /w/ sound in “And watch the white eyes writhing in his face.
  • Simile : Simile is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to describe an object or a person. Owen has used many self-explanatory similes in this poem such as,” Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”, “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags”, “like a man in fire or lime” and “like a devil’s sick of sin.”
  • Metaphor : There is only one metaphor used in this poem. It is used in line seven of the poem, “ Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots.” It presents the physical state of the men.
  • Onomatopoeia : It refers to the words which imitate the natural sounds of the things. Owen has used the words “hoot”, “knock” and “gargling” in the poem to imitate sounds.
  • Consonance : Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the /r/ sound in “Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs.”
  • Synecdoche : It is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole. For example, the word “sight” in the second stanza represents the speaker.
  • Imagery : Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. Owen has successfully used a lot of imageries to create a horrific picture of war, pain, and The following phrases show the effective use of imagery as he says, “old beggars under sacks”, “had lost their boots”, “His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin” and “white eyes.”
  • Assonance : Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as /o/ sound in “Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.”

The careful glimpse of literary analysis shows that the poet has skilfully projected his war experiences under cover of these literary devices. The appropriate use of the devices has made this poem a thought-provoking piece for the readers.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Dulce et Decorum Est”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • Structure: The poem is a combination of two sonnets. In the first sonnet , the poet describes his experiences of the war whereas in the second sonnet he becomes analytic and attempts to correct the outlook of others about the war.
  • Sonnet : A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem in which a single idea floats throughout the poem.
  • Rhyme Scheme : The whole poem follows the ABAB, CDCD rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter .
  • Iambic Pentameter : It is a type of meter consisting of five iambs . The poem comprises iambic pentameter such as, “Bent Dou ble, like old beg gars un der ”
Quotes to be Used
  • These lines can be used when describing the awful situation of the people facing droughts , illness or diseases.
“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge.”
  • These lines can be used when narrating any personal experience of pain or depression.
“Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.”

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Easy Insightful Literature Notes

Dulce et Decorum Est Summary & Analysis

Dulce et decorum est: about the poem.

The poem Dulce et Decorum Est is a prominent anti-war poem written by Wilfred Owen about the events surrounding the First World War. Owen served as a Lieutenant in the War and felt the soldiers’ pain and the real truth behind war.

In the poem, he creates an hierarchical division of events. First, he discusses the general unwillingness of the soldiers who are actually facing the wrath of war to continue with the war. The soldiers are caught in a sudden gas attack, most probably the chlorine gas which forms a green sea. Owen then moves on to depict the trauma the narrator suffers while he watches his fellow soldier succumb to the deadly gas poisoning and can do nothing. Finally, he makes an outstanding commentary on how the perspectives of people talking about war and the soldiers who are witnessing it differ.

In the poem, Owen presents a graphic picturisation not of the the war but the casualty of war. Such characterisation makes the poem a distinct anti-war poem of all time. Further, in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ we find that it is not confined to being an anti-war poem. Rather, it moves a step ahead to invoke those people who make rallying  cry for youths to enlist to fight war in name of glory and national honour.

This brings out the irony between the idealism of war as heroic by men exhorting youth to join the war and realism of the war as devastating that a soldier of the war face. The use of irony marks Owen’s known form of expression.

He directed the first draft of this poem to Jessie Pope, a civilian propagandist and poetess who rooted on the youths to join war efforts. Then, he  later revised it to mention “a certain Poetess” and ultimately eliminated it in order to rope in a larger audience.

The title of the poem is satiric and a manifestation of the disgust and bitterness the narrator holds for the warmongers. The title appears in the last two lines of the poem. “Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori” (It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.) was a popular Latin phrase at that time. It was originally a part of the Roman Poet Horace’s Ode 3.2 . Owen ends the poem with these lines to accentuate the fact that participation in war may not at all be decorous. He was simply unable to justify the sufferings of war. The outbreaks of influenza, or living in trenches with rats for days didn’t seem justifiable. The loss of so many lives, soldiers living in worst conditions, blocking each other’s food supplies didn’t support a humane environment.

About the Poet: Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, MC (Military Cross) was an English soldier and one of the leading war-poets of the First World War. He is best known for his works which stood contrary to the popular perception of war at the time and the patriotic verses of the writers like Rupert Brooke. Many of his best-known works came out  posthumously including “Dulce et Decorum Est”, “Insensibility”, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, “Futility” and “Strange Meeting”.

His early writings show influence of Romantic poets like Keats and Shelley. But, his later ones show a distinct influence of his fellow soldier Siegfried Sassoon, especially his use of satire.

Owen was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership in the Joncourt action.

Dulce et Decorum Est: Form and Structure

The poem is a combination of two sonnets. Though the spacing is regular between them, it gives a semblance of French ballad. The breaks in the sonnets are irregular and irregularity brings out a sense of irregularity and imperfectness of the world.

In the first sonnet, the poet describes his experiences of the war. In the second sonnet, he becomes analytic with a clear stand. He reflects back on what he experienced and attempts to correct the outlook of others.

The poem rhymes well following patterns like ABAB, CDCD etc. It may look like one written in Iambic Pentameter. But, the stresses are not definite in every line. May be this is another way of Owen to break off from the conventions and traditional ideals of the society and show the world its true face.

Dulce et Decorum Est: Line by line Analysis

The poem develops along three stages – presentation of weary and tired soldiers, then their sudden exposure to bombings and gassing and finally, the horrific after-effect of the war – described so emphatically.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags,

The first stanza starts with the description of the tired, war-ridden soldiers. According to the speaker, the soldiers were bent double like old beggars with heavy sacks. Here, ‘double’ points to the fact that the soldiers were not only physically but also mentally exhausted.

They were knock-kneed or physically deformed, coughing like hags. With the use of simile with the word “like” in ‘like old beggars’, and ‘hags’, the poet tries to induce the convincing image of horrid and terrifying experiences of the war.

… we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Exhausted, they dragged on through the sludge nonetheless. The “sludge” may actually depict the trenches the soldiers had to live through during the First World War. Seemingly, these trenches became a part of an extended war-plan. The soldiers wouldn’t turn around even if the haunting flares or bombs exploded near them. They kept on moving to their camps, a place where they could rest. It was certainly ‘distant’ from the war-front.

Here, ‘distant rest’ can also point to subtle description of death as the ultimate destiny for the war-soldiers. Only death could be the real guarantee of rest. The First World War did cost over nine million lives.

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.

With this, the speaker continues the description and says the men marched on. They were dog-tired as if they were asleep. Even when many of them lost their boots they limped on their blood-shod feet. They all went lame and blind and drunk with fatigue. They even grew deaf to the noises, hoots of the shells and the bombs around them. Even the five-point-nine calibre shells which dropped behind them seemed to fail to awaken the soldiers.

To make it easy, the soldiers were so tired that they could not even hear the sounds of all the noises, hoots, bombs or the mighty shells.

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. . .

With the second stanza, we move on to the second act or stage where a sudden chaos ensues. The poem suddenly gains pace with the abrupt gas-attack. The soldiers were caught in the frenzy which is marked by ‘Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!’. They hastened to ready themselves with masks and helmets. While fitting their clumsy helmets in time, they fumbled. But, there was one soldier still yelling out and stumbling, floundering like a man on fire or lime (which burns live tissues).

The ‘ecstasy of fumbling’ provides us with an irony. Surely, the situation was far from being ecstasy. It only describes the picture of how tired and jaded they were. The chaos followed the fatigue and presented itself as ecstasy.

With the use of simile, the poet takes help from outside to actually describe what he was feeling. It is as if he cannot deal with the event head-on. So, he sought similarity with hags to minimize the pain he was feeling – the pain of a life getting lost right in front of his eyes.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

The speaker then says that through the hazy window-panes and the dim, thick green light, he saw his comrade drowning under a green sea. The gas-attack produced the “green” sea that his eyes saw.

With the repetition of the word ‘green’, the poet paints a gruesome picture of how overwhelming the scene must have been.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

The poet stresses upon the dreams the speaker is having in the third stanza. In all his dreams, the same soldier plunges at the speaker. And, like always, he can do nothing but look at him helplessly.

Here, ‘helpless sight’ underscores the sense of helplessness he felt at not being able to help his fellow soldier when he succumbed to the gas-attack. As in past, he was unable to do anything about it and was guilt-ridden, the same is reflected in his dreams.

The man in his dreams is always guttering, choking and drowning. Here, ‘guttering’ may point to gurgling like water draining down a gutter or the sounds in the throat of the choking man.

The rhyme scheme of this stanza follows the second one. Quite possibly, it highlights how the past (second stanza) is affecting his present (third stanza).

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;

Now with this stanza, the poem enters its final stage where the speaker takes over the narrative. Here, as discussed earlier, ‘you’ is meant to point out to  the extended audience Owen tries to show the real face of the war to. Here, he attempts to convince us to see the war as if we were there.

Yet again, the pace of the poem slows down. The whole stanza is a single complex sentence comprising of some conditional (if) clauses. The motive is to say that we the readers could feel the poet’s agony and support his point if we were present in the battlefield and saw the horrific happenings there.

Clearly, through this stanza, he wants the reader to feel the pain he went through. But he knows there is no way that we the readers can feel the same. It is just not possible to feel the same from afar. So, everything from now can only be hypothetical.

Owen continues to exhort the readers to prove his point. He claims that we the readers could feel the same pity of war if we could follow the wagon that they (speaker and his comrades) flung the soldier’s body in, or watch the dead soldier’s lifeless white eyes or his pitiful face in an overwhelming (smothering) dream.

Here, the poet has used expressions like ‘white eyes’, ‘writhing in his face’, ‘hanging face’ and ‘devil’s sick of sin’ to express how horrible the dream could be.

Here is a simile in comparing the lifeless face to a devil’s sick of sin. Again, when we notice keenly we find the use of sibilance with ‘face’, ‘devil’s’,  ‘sick’ and ‘sin’ in the last line above.

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.

Further, the poet invokes the readers and calls them his friend (‘my friend’) while carrying on with his logic. He opines, if we could hear the soldier’s voice gargling blood from his lung corrupted by the gas at every jolt the wagon experienced sounding as “obscene as cancer” and bitter as cud, then we would not say with such high zest and conviction to the keen children desirous of glory, “the old lie” of “Dulce et decorum est”.

Here, ‘high zest’ is a satirical take to point out the idealistic conviction and enthusiasm of people sitting back home. Nonetheless, it brings in light the hypocrisy of such men and women who are far away from the war and unaware of the true reality of the war.

He clearly calls “Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori” (“It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country”) an old lie. Even when he maintains that he is not unwilling to sacrifice his life for his country, he simply doesn’t believe in the old conviction that it is the sweet and fitting thing to do. Needless to say, he didn’t gain any sweet or fitting, worthwhile experience from the war.

So, this anti-war poem goes on to paint the tragedy of war and to convince the leaders against trying to infuse false patriotism in youths. And, unlike many other war-poems, this is based on real stocktaking, real knowledge and real assessment of the situation.

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Wilfred Owen: Poems

By wilfred owen, wilfred owen: poems summary and analysis of "dulce et decorum est".

The boys are bent over like old beggars carrying sacks, and they curse and cough through the mud until the "haunting flares" tell them it is time to head toward their rest. As they march some men are asleep, others limp with bloody feet as they'd lost their boots. All are lame and blind, extremely tired and deaf to the shells falling behind them.

Suddenly there is gas, and the speaker calls, "Quick, boys!" There is fumbling as they try to put on their helmets in time. One soldier is still yelling and stumbling about as if he is on fire. Through the dim "thick green light" the speaker sees him fall like he is drowning.

The drowning man is in the speaker's dreams, always falling, choking.

The speaker says that if you could follow behind that wagon where the soldier's body was thrown, watching his eyes roll about in his head, see his face "like a devil's sick of sin", hear his voice gargling frothy blood at every bounce of the wagon, sounding as "obscene as cancer" and bitter as lingering sores on the tongue, then you, "my friend", would not say with such passion and conviction to children desirous of glory, "the old lie" of "Dulce et decorum est".

"Dulce et Decorum est" is without a doubt one of, if not the most, memorable and anthologized poems in Owen's oeuvre. Its vibrant imagery and searing tone make it an unforgettable excoriation of WWI, and it has found its way into both literature and history courses as a paragon of textual representation of the horrors of the battlefield. It was written in 1917 while Owen was at Craiglockhart, revised while he was at either Ripon or Scarborough in 1918, and published posthumously in 1920. One version was sent to Susan Owen, the poet's mother, with the inscription, "Here is a gas poem done yesterday (which is not private, but not final)." The poem paints a battlefield scene of soldiers trudging along only to be interrupted by poison gas. One soldier does not get his helmet on in time and is thrown on the back of the wagon where he coughs and sputters as he dies. The speaker bitterly and ironically refutes the message espoused by many that war is glorious and it is an honor to die for one's country.

The poem is a combination of two sonnets, although the spacing between the two is irregular. It resembles French ballad structure. The broken sonnet form and the irregularity reinforce the feeling of otherworldliness; in the first sonnet, Owen narrates the action in the present, while in the second he looks upon the scene, almost dazed, contemplative. The rhyme scheme is traditional, and each stanza features two quatrains of rhymed iambic pentameter with several spondaic substitutions.

"Dulce" is a message of sorts to a poet and civilian propagandist, Jessie Pope, who had written several jingoistic and enthusiastic poems exhorting young men to join the war effort. She is the "friend" Owen mentions near the end of his poem. The first draft was dedicated to her, with a later revision being altered to "a certain Poetess". However, the final draft eliminated a specific reference to her, as Owen wanted his words to apply to a larger audience.

The title of the poem, which also appears in the last two lines, is Latin for, "It is sweet and right to die for one's country" - or, more informally, "it is an honor to die for one's country". The line derives from the Roman poet Horace's Ode 3.2 . The phrase was commonly used during the WWI era, and thus would have resonated with Owen's readers. It was also inscribed on the wall of the chapel of the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in 1913.

In the first stanza Owen is speaking in first person, putting himself with his fellow soldiers as they labor through the sludge of the battlefield. He depicts them as old men, as "beggars". They have lost the semblance of humanity and are reduced to ciphers. They are wearied to the bone and desensitized to all but their march. In the second stanza the action occurs – poisonous gas forces the soldiers to put their helmets on. Owen heightens the tension through the depiction of one unlucky soldier who could not complete this task in time - he ends up falling, "drowning" in gas. This is seen through "the misty panes and the thick green light", and, as the imagery suggests, the poet sees this in his dreams.

In the fourth stanza Owen takes a step back from the action and uses his poetic voice to bitterly and incisively criticize those who promulgate going to war as a glorious endeavor. He paints a vivid picture of the dying young soldier, taking pains to limn just how unnatural it is, "obscene as cancer". The dying man is an offense to innocence and purity – his face like a "devil's sick of sin". Owen then says that, if you knew what the reality of war was like, you would not go about telling children they should enlist. There is utterly no ambiguity in the poem, and thus it is emblematic of poetry critical of war.

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Wilfred Owen: Poems Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Wilfred Owen: Poems is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

How could we interpret the symbol of ‘fruits’?​

Poem title, please?

What are the similarities between the poems Next War and Dulce et Decorum est? for example how grief is portrayed through both is almost the same fashion

I'm not sure what you mean by "next war".

Experience of war in Dulce Et Decorum Est

"Dulce et Decorum est" is without a doubt one of, if not the most, memorable and anthologized poems in Owen's oeuvre. Its vibrant imagery and searing tone make it an unforgettable excoriation of WWI, and it has found its way into both literature...

Study Guide for Wilfred Owen: Poems

Wilfred Owen: Poems study guide contains a biography of Wilfred Owen, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of Wilfred Owen's major poems.

  • About Wilfred Owen: Poems
  • Wilfred Owen: Poems Summary
  • Character List

Essays for Wilfred Owen: Poems

Wilfred Owen: Poems essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Wilfred Owen's poetry.

  • “Fellowships Untold”: The Role of Wilfred Owen’s Poetry in Understanding Comradeship During World War I
  • Analysis of Owen's "Strange Meeting"
  • The Development of Modernism as Seen through World War I Poetry and "The Prussian Officer"
  • Commentary on the Poem “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen
  • Commentary on the Poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth" by Wilfred Owen

E-Text of Wilfred Owen: Poems

Wilfred Owen: Poems e-text contains the full texts of select poems by Wilfred Owen.

  • Introduction by Siegfried Sassoon
  • Strange Meeting
  • Greater Love
  • Apologia pro Poemeta Mio

Wikipedia Entries for Wilfred Owen: Poems

  • Introduction
  • War service

essay about dulce et decorum est

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Good Dulce ET Decorum EST Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: War , Soldiers , Poem , World , Veterans , Terrorism , Poetry , Literature

Words: 1250

Published: 02/22/2020

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The aim of this essay is to present you with a portrait and analysis of the poem ‘Dulce et Decorum est’. This is a poem titled in a Latin phrase which goes on in the first verse saying ‘Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori’. This Latin phrase borrowed by Horace, the Latin poet, means that it is sweet and ideal for one to die for his / her country. The poem was written by Wilfred Owen in 1917. The year this poem was written there was a war going on and this was the World War I. According to sources ‘the earliest surviving manuscript of the poem is dated 8 October 1917’ (retrieved from www. Wikipedia.com). The poem was published in 1920 and has been appealing to its readers ever since. The essay will focus on the meaning of the poem, its impact on readers and reflections drawn upon its reading. Wilfred Owen borrowed Horace’s words to title his poem in which he wishes to state a totally different idea from the one expressed by its title. One would probably expect to read a poem that talks about the significance and ethical value lying in fighting for one’s country in order to stand against enemies and dangers of his / her country, his /her culture and his / her family. On the contrary the words of the title are used by Wilfred Owen in an ironic and sarcastic way so that the poet manages to put across his message which is fully an anti-war message. The imagery and rhythm used by Owen is putting across the faces and tortured bodies of soldiers fighting for a cause which they have not chosen, sacrificing their lives for their countries and cultures and national identities which one way or the other were like the poet wants to emphasize condemned to fall in the trap of political games played in the backstage. War has always been considered one of the worst evils which could fall upon humanity and has always been found to have been provoked by conflicts occurring within the political and economic relationships of countries and states. World War I was a war whose effect was such that worldwide people seemed to realize that they all ought to deal with their differences in such a way that wars are avoided. Nevertheless, human history repeated itself with the World War II to reach the top of misery and unhappiness imposed on people all over the world. It is common knowledge that poetry serves as a kind of vehicle which moves all around the world without being prevented by distances or time gaps in order to express feelings of its creators, worldwide feelings, concerns, agonies and fears. Poems seem to speak to people’s hearts managing to raise concern and thoughts on worldwide events as well as personal situations. The poem is divided in four stanzas. The first verses of the first stanza ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge’ refers to the image of soldiers be crippled, walking like dead corpses. In line 5 of the poem ‘Men marched asleep.’ and this verse highlights that men are like zombies. This is what war does to people. War makes people lose their humanity, lose their feelings, lose their sense and substance of existence. Wilfred Owen uses realistic images. He does not want to talk in calm, peaceful voice. He wants to emphasize on the terror of the war and in order to manage to do so he needs to use words and images which depict the horror and the dreadful aura. After the middle of line five the poet has a pause in the line which in poetry is called a caesura and this is done on purpose so that the poet manages to depict the depth and meaning of his words and images. He goes on after the middle of line five (5) ‘Many had lost their boots, / But limped on, blood-shod.’ The image of the soldiers who seem destroyed both physically and mentally goes on. All these words with the repetition of the sound ‘l’ makes the tongue repeating her voice in such a way that all words keep their voices strong enough and loud. The poet starts notifying us on the total lack of any point in the march the soldiers are performing, the soldiers seem to have entered a march with no specific goal, with no specific destination. In lines 7-8 the soldiers are ‘Drunk with fatigue, deaf even to the hoots / of tired, outstripped Five – Nines that dropped behind.’ The Five –Nines are the gas shells and even the equipment of the soldiers seems destroyed and useless. The poem goes on in the same rhythm and theme. And in the second stanza in lines 13-14 the narrator of the poem ‘Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,/ As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.’ sees a man drowning in the green fog created by the war and the weapons and the gas. A man is drowning but no name is needed to be given and this man in the third stanza in lines 15-16 ‘In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, / He plunges at me, guttering, choking, and drowning.’ The man is asking for the narrator’s help. He wants to avoid his death but the narrator is helpless. It is the terror of the war which drowns people and nothing can be done in order to be saved. It is not clearly stated by the poet that the war is useless and causes only extra pain but this is what the poet seems to want to emphasize on. The poem goes on in the last stanza, the fourth one in lines 21-24 ‘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,–’ to show more emphasis on the terror of the war and its ugliness. War is like cancer. Cancer is a disease which folds one body in its ugliness and pain. This is what war is like. It folds people’s bodies and souls into ugliness, the awakening of bad insticts, the animal-like behavior, and the total loss of humanity. In the following lines 25-27 ‘My friend, you would not tell with such high zestTo children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie:’ the poet finally addresses his audience with the real meaning of his message. He does not just wish to give an image of the war’s terror. He wants to prove to people that any war no matter defensive or attacking is violent, disastrous and catastrophic. This is what Wilfred Owen wants to put across to the people of his generation and the future one. He wants to tell people that it is not honor to fight for your country. Because dying for your country may be an ideal of older times which by no means can be applied to nowadays demands. People ought to realize that they only have one choice if they want to survive and have a good quality of life and that is their harmonic co-existence and co-operation through a healthy dialogue.

Works cited

Shakel, Peter, Ridl Jack, ‘Approaching Literature: Writing, Reading, Thinking’ Bedford/St. Martin's; 2nd edition (December 24, 2007) Wilfred,Owen ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ (1917) retrieved from www. Wikipedia.com

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — Dulce Et Decorum Est — Comparative Analysis Of Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est And Brooke’s The Soldier

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"Dulce Et Decorum Est" and "The Soldier": a Comparison of The Poems

  • Categories: Dulce Et Decorum Est Literary Criticism Poetry

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  • Norgate, P. (1989). Wilfred Owen and the soldier poets. The Review of English Studies, 40(160), 516-530. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/517098)
  • Hughes, J. (2006). Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est. The Explicator, 64(3), 164-166. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/EXPL.64.3.164-166?journalCode=vexp20)
  • Zawierucki, R. (2015). Heroes or cannon fodder? Images of the soldier in British Great War poetry. (https://ruj.uj.edu.pl/xmlui/handle/item/205805)
  • Corcoran, N. (2007). Wilfred Owen and the poetry of war. the cambridge companion to twentieth-century english poetry, 87-101. (https://www.academia.edu/43528900/The_Cambridge_Companion_to_Twentieth_Century_English_Poetry)
  • Wright, W. (2002). Hardy and Owen on World War I: Explications and a Comparative Analysis of" The Man He Killed" and" Dulce et Decorum Est". The Oswald Review: An International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Criticism in the Discipline of English, 4(1), 9. (https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1040&context=tor)

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Compare and Contrast Essay: The Soldier vs. Dulce et Decorum est

Poets who write about war, especially in the 21st century have a responsibility to portray the horrors of war. They are supposed to warn us about the effects of war and remind us of the death and suffering that can occur. The propaganda of ww1 started a change of position between poets, some wanted to represent heroic qualities of soldiers, while others focused on the realities of war.  This can not be portrayed better than the 2 poems of The soldier by Rupert Brooke and Dulce et Decorum Est By Wilfred Owen.

The 2 poems I have chosen to have very different views of war. Owens poem, Dulce et Decorum Est highlights the negative effects of war, while Rupert's poem, the soldier highlights the positive effects of war. The purpose of Owens poem was to warn us of the horrors of war and show us that dying in war is not honourable.  While reading this poem you quickly realise that to die war is not honourable as shown in propaganda. The poem forces you to empathize with the soldiers as it describes the horrors of trench warfare. Owen makes us picture the idea of trench warfare as if we experienced it for ourselves. He takes the idea of a soldier; masculine, strong and manly, and challenging it to make them look weak and withered. Within the poem, Owen uses a variety of different language and poetic techniques to make his message clearer, this can be seen in the quote “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks ... Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.” In this quote, a variety of poetic techniques are utilized to make the text powerful. Some of these techniques include rhyming, similes, metaphors, and alliteration. These techniques make the reader feel insecure, as they realize the horror of war and start to understand Owens message. Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen's only focus is on the negatives of war. He uses a variety of techniques to emphasize his point, while trying to make the readers empathize with the soldiers and relate to their experiences.

The second poem we have to discuss is The soldier by Rupert Brooke. This poem explores the lighter side of war, its purpose is to promote war and portray death as an honourable sacrifice to England, the motherland. Rupert Brooke wrote The Soldier during the start of World War 1 and was inspired by propaganda. He had not experienced the war yet unlike Dulce et Decorum Est. This fact alone affects how each of the poets wrote their poems.  Rupert uses a sonnet tone to make his writing have a pleasant effect and make you support the war effort. Brooke used a variety of poetic and language techniques to make England sound like a peaceful and beautiful place. This can be seen in this quote “If I should die, think only this of me … Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.”  this quote is important as it reminds the readers that England made them. The quote implies that you are only alive because of England, you owe everything to the country and should thus be happy to die for it. Some techniques used in the quote are; alliteration, tricolon and repetition. These techniques help keep a positive image of England in the readers head and make them consider helping England in the war. Furthermore, this poem is an unrealistic poem that only emphasizes the positives of war. It focuses on the fact that you would not be alive without England and dying in war is the only honourable thing to do. 

In summary, this essay has explored two poems that convey the different attitudes of war. The 2 poems I have explored were Dulce et Decorum Est and The soldier. These poems both represent how poetry can serve as a warning and how it can shape the world today.

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Home / Essay Samples / Literature / Poems / Dulce Et Decorum Est

Portrayal of Death in Dulce Et Decorum Est, and How to Tell a True War Story

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Poems , Writers

Dulce Et Decorum Est , Wilfred Owen

  • Words: 2258 (5 pages)

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Works cited

  • Brooke, R. (1914). The Soldier. The Complete Poems of Rupert Brooke. Sidgwick & Jackson.
  • Horace. (n.d.). Carmina: Liber I. The Latin Library. http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/horace/carmina1.shtml
  • Keegan, J. (1993). A History of Warfare. Vintage Books.
  • Leckie, R. (1957). Helmet for My Pillow. Robert Leckie.
  • McAuliffe, M. (1992). Battle cry of freedom: The Civil War era. Oxford University Press.
  • Owen, W. (1918). Dulce et Decorum Est. The Poems of Wilfred Owen. Chatto & Windus.
  • O’Brien, T. (1990). How to Tell a True War Story. In The Things They Carried. Broadway Books.
  • Sledge, E. B. (1981). With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. Oxford University Press.
  • Tuchman, B. W. (1962). The Guns of August. The Macmillan Company.
  • Vonnegut, K. (1969). Slaughterhouse-Five. Dell Publishing.

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COMMENTS

  1. Dulce et Decorum Est Poem Summary and Analysis

    and presented is seamlessly smooth, innovative, and comprehensive." "Dulce et Decorum Est" is a poem by the English poet Wilfred Owen. Like most of Owen's work, it was written between August 1917 and September 1918, while he was fighting in World War 1. Owen is known for his wrenching descriptions of suffering in war.

  2. Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen (Poem + Analysis)

    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est. Pro patria mori. In the last paragraph, Owen condenses the poem to an almost claustrophobic pace: 'if in some smothering dreams, you too could pace', and he goes into a very graphic, horrific description of the suffering that victims of mustard gas endured: 'froth-corrupted lungs," incurable sores ...

  3. Dulce et Decorum Est: Analysis, Essay Ideas, Q&A.

    The poem's title and final lines, "Dulce et Decorum Est," are from Horace's Ode 3.2. The bar is a Latin equivalent for "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.". It echoes powerfully in the hearts of the young, showing only the heroic and romantic side of patriotic death and other sacrifices "for good.".

  4. A Short Analysis of Wilfred Owen's 'Dulce et Decorum Est'

    By Dr Oliver Tearle 'Dulce et Decorum Est' or, to give the phrase in full: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Latin for 'it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country' (patria is where we get our word 'patriotic' from). The phrase originated in the Roman poet Horace, but in 'Dulce et Decorum Est', Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) famously rejects this idea.

  5. Analysis of the Poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen

    Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, which is a line taken from the Latin odes of the Roman poet Horace, means it is sweet and proper to die for one's country. Wilfred Owen takes the opposite stance. In the poem, he is, in effect, saying that it is anything but sweet and proper to die for one's country in a hideous war that eventually took the ...

  6. Dulce et Decorum Est Summary

    Introduction. Published posthumously in 1920, Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" is emblematic of a new tide in war poetry. In contrast to earlier verses, such as Rupert Brooke's ...

  7. Dulce et Decorum Est

    Analysis of the Literary Devices used in "Dulce et Decorum Est". literary devices are used to bring richness and clarity to the texts. The writers and poets use them to make their texts appealing and meaningful. Owen has also employed some literary devices in this poem to present the mind-disturbing pictures of the war.

  8. Dulce et Decorum Est Summary & Analysis

    Dulce et Decorum Est: About the poem. The poem Dulce et Decorum Est is a prominent anti-war poem written by Wilfred Owen about the events surrounding the First World War. Owen served as a Lieutenant in the War and felt the soldiers' pain and the real truth behind war. In the poem, he creates an hierarchical division of events.

  9. PDF Advanced

    Exemplar Essay Page 1 of 3 Dulce et Decorum Est The Honor, Horror, and Sacrifice of War War. It's a word that represents death to some. Others may think of it as pride and being brave. No matter what, war brings many emotions and feelings to people who have experienced it in their lifetime. The poems "Who's for the

  10. Dulce et Decorum Est Themes

    Discussion of themes and motifs in Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est. eNotes critical analyses help you gain a deeper understanding of Dulce et Decorum Est so you can excel on your essay or test.

  11. Wilfred Owen: Poems "Dulce et Decorum est" Summary and Analysis

    Analysis. "Dulce et Decorum est" is without a doubt one of, if not the most, memorable and anthologized poems in Owen's oeuvre. Its vibrant imagery and searing tone make it an unforgettable excoriation of WWI, and it has found its way into both literature and history courses as a paragon of textual representation of the horrors of the battlefield.

  12. Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

    Dulce et Decorum Est. Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 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; Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. Gas!

  13. PDF National 5 Critical Essay Exemplar 'Dulce Et Decorum Est'

    A poem which describes a person's experience is 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen. The poem is about a gas attack on a group of soldiers as they return from the trenches of World War I. The speaker describes the event itself, the trauma it causes him, and then ends with the speaker directly challenging pro-war propagandists.

  14. PDF Developing

    please see "25 Ways to Use Exemplar Essays" by visiting the Curriculum Resources page in Help. Dulce et Decorum Est Fight For What's Right Claim and Focus The essay attempts to make a claim about the texts ("In both poems the poets let on a strong argument on war"), but it is not specific or arguable. The essay attempts to address point ...

  15. Dulce Et Decorum Est Essay

    Dulce Et Decorum Est Propaganda. "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is an anti-war poem, written by a soldier in the british army during World War 1, who ended up being one of the leading poets of the first world war. In his poem, "Dulce Et Decorum Est", Wilfred Owen uses diction to evoke grotesque imagery that portrays the true horrors of the WWI ...

  16. Dulce et Decorum Est

    Expert Answers. In his poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est," Wilfred Owen depicts war as a brutal and senseless waste of human life. From the very first stanza, Wilfred tears down the idea that war is ...

  17. Dulce ET Decorum EST Essays

    The aim of this essay is to present you with a portrait and analysis of the poem 'Dulce et Decorum est'. This is a poem titled in a Latin phrase which goes on in the first verse saying 'Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori'. This Latin phrase borrowed by Horace, the Latin poet, means that it is sweet and ideal for one to die for his ...

  18. Comparative Analysis Of Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est And ...

    Conclusion paragraph: Through the contrasting poems The Soldier and Dulce et Decorum Est, Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen share their opposing feelings and thoughts about war and dying for one's country. Both The Soldier and Dulce et Decorum Est highlight the firsthand accounts of Brooke and Owen's experiences, yet they differ drastically in many other ways.

  19. Analysis of "Dulce et Decorum Est" Free Essay Example

    Analysis of "Dulce et Decorum Est". The poem we have been analysing in class, Dulce et Decorum Est, was written by a man named Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was a soldier in the first world war and was born on the 18th of March 1893, and died on the 4th of November 1918, a week before the end of the first world war.

  20. Compare and Contrast Essay: The Soldier vs. Dulce et Decorum est

    This can not be portrayed better than the 2 poems of The soldier by Rupert Brooke and Dulce et Decorum Est By Wilfred Owen. The 2 poems I have chosen to have very different views of war. Owens poem, Dulce et Decorum Est highlights the negative effects of war, while Rupert's poem, the soldier highlights the positive effects of war. The purpose ...

  21. Portrayal of Death in Dulce et Decorum Est, and How to Tell a True War

    Wilfred Owen was a British soldier during World War I and died one week before the war ended. Most of his poems, including Dulce et Decorum Est, were written during his time in the war. His poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, follows the traditional 14-line sonnet iambic pentameter except for the occasional line breaks to emphasize the horrors of war.

  22. Dulce et Decorum Est Questions and Answers

    In "Dulce et Decorum Est," what connotations does "cursed through sludge" have compared to "marched" or "walked"? Dulce et Decorum Est Questions and Answers - Discover the eNotes.com community of ...

  23. Dulce Est Decorum Est and This Is the Dark Time, My Love

    Dulce Et Decorum Est Narrative Essay. In the two poems "Dulce et Decorum Est," by Wilfred Owen and "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner," by Randall Jarrell, a common theme is expressed among the two. The expendability of life in warfare is that theme. Both poems express this theme in the same way and make readers realize the worth of ...