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 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 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.
In: „Englische und amerikanische Dichtung. Bd. 3: Von R. Browning bis Heaney.“ Hg. von Horst Meller und Klaus Reichert (München: C. H. Beck Verlag, 2000), 126-127.

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Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen (b. March 18, 1893 near Oswestry, Shropshire, d. November 4, 1918 near Ors, France) is considered Britain’s greatest Great War poet. After serving on the Western front for six months in 1917, he was treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, where he wrote Dulce et decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth. Returning to the front in September 1918, Owen was killed in combat one week before the Armistice.