Poems

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Interpretation of poems

Dulce et decorum est are the first words of a Latin saying taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country. The opening of the poem suggests Owen pities the state to which the soldiers have fallen. Instead of youthful, strong fighters the y are 'Bent double', 'Knock-kneed, coughing like hags'. Owen's imagery presents the men as weakened. War has broken these men, and they are described in the most unglamorous, inglorious manner. Owen's bitterness at this transformation is obvious. Owen's disillusionment with war is also clear from the closing lines of the poem. After describing the horrifying effects of the gas attack he addresses the reader: 'My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old Lie' He is rejecting the accepted attitude back at home that serving your country in war is glorious. He is critical of the 'high zest', or great enthusiasm, used to convince men to go to war. He sees war as brutal and wasteful of young lives. His choice of the word 'children' is also significant; impressionable young men are almost lured to war by the promise of 'desperate glory'.

This definitely falls into the category of black humour, as it is hard to imagine how a father could be quite so detached when identifying the body of his dead son. However, there is more "black" than humour here, because, as the details mount, the reader becomes increasingly horrified by the apparent callousness of the father as he examines the fire-blackened body of a child without appearing to exhibit any emotion at all, whether or not this turns out to be Stephen mcgough cleverly piles detail upon detail to...
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