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Truong Dan Sam

Mr. Mancer

International School Of Vietnam

Analysis of Dulce et Decorum Est

The First World War was an event that brought to many people, pain, sorrow and even

death. Many people affected by the terror of the war have written pieces of literature about the

massacre that was World War 1, in hopes that people will understand the horror and tragedy that

occured those involved. “Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen, is one such work that

presents to the reader a vivid yet horrifying description of World War 1, with the intent to

illustrate that war is not romantic and heroic, but a horrifying and devastating event. “Dulce et

decorum est - pro patria mori”, which means “It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”.

However, in this poem there is nothing in the poem that is sweet, or is are any description that

would associate directly to this title. This poem is ironically dedicated to Jessie Pope, an English

writer, journalist and a poet known to write poems that deliver patriotic messages. It scolds the

media that propagated the innocent soldiers who attempted honourable political actions. The

poem is divided into roughly 3 sections: the soldiers leaving the battlefield, a scene of the

soldiers suffering from a suprise gas attack and a criticism against those who glorifies these

The first stanza describes using a series of similes for the exhausted men trudging

through mud ‘like old beggars’, ‘coughing like hags’ and more direct metaphors like ‘blood-

shod’ suggesting feet caked in blood and implying trench-foot and cut legs with “shod” putting

our mind into a horse’s, trudging through rough and muddy terrain; and ‘drunk with fatigue’ may

be reminding us that this is not a fun beer-fuelled night out with friends at night on the town.

On the second stanza, we are shocked by the cry of “Gas! GAS!” at the beginning of the

second stanza, with the staggering cry of “gas! GAS!”, the fear and adrenaline makes them all

fumble and struggling to put their masks on to protect them from the deadly attack. After he

physically witnessed the soldier dying from the effects of the poisonous gas, Owen cannot forget

this tragic, horrifying moment, as it haunts him in his dreams, a recurring nightmare. The

repetitions of the word “drowning” really conveys this.

And on the final stanza, Owen describes the soldier's death as a “devil’s sick of sin”, to

imply that a once innocent soul has fallen into the depths of hell. The last four lines are very

ironic and cynical, as if they were Wilfred’s own words. The poem ends with a quote “Dulce et

decorum est pro patria mori” which is a lie, to impressionable young men, some of them are so

young, they are still “children”, it’s also evident that some boys lied about their age just so that

they could join the army, who are just “ardent for some desperate glory”.

Dulce et Decorum Est is a fine poem that the young poet Wilfred Owen has written in his

response to the horrific events that he has witnessed, and expressing them with controlled

language, using imagery with great effect.