Dulce Et Decorum Est : a Critical Analysis

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  • Topic: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Poetry, Chemical warfare
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  • Published : May 26, 2013
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Dulce et Decorum est
 Dulce et Decorum est  is a poem written by poet Wilfred Owen in 1917, during World War I, and published posthumously in 1920. Dulce et Decorum Est uses gruesome imagery to narrate the horrors of a gas attack.Owen's poem is known for its horrific imagery and condemnation of war. His poetry is characterised by powerful descriptions of the conditions faced by soldiers in the trenches. It was drafted at Craiglockhart in the first half of October 1917 and later revised, probably at Scarborough but possibly Ripon, between January and March 1918. The earliest surviving manuscript is dated 8 October 1917 and addressed to his mother, Susan Owen, with the message "Here is a gas poem done yesterday, (which is not private, but not final)". Formally, the poem can be understood as the combination of two sonnets, though the spacing of the stanzas is irregular. The text presents a vignette from the front lines of World War I; specifically, of British soldiers attacked with chemical weapons. In the rush when the shell with poison gas explodes, one soldier is unable to get his mask on in time. The speaker of the poem describes the gruesome effects of the gas on the man and concludes that, if one were to see firsthand the reality of war, one might not repeat mendacious platitudes like Horace's about the nature of war. Through the poem, and particularly strong in the last stanza, there is a running commentary, a letter to Jessie Pope, a civilian propagandist of World War I, who encouraged—"with such high zest"—young men to join the battle, through her poetry, e.g. "Who's for the game?" The first draft of the poem, indeed, was dedicated to Pope. A later revision amended this to "a certain Poetess",though this did not make it into the final publication, either, as Owen apparently decided to address his poem to the larger audience of war supporters in general such as the women who handed out white feathers during the conflict to men whom they regarded as cowards...
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