Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

Reading Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, I found it very interesting how he ends the poem with ‘Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori’. Searching it up at the back of the book and online, it translates as ‘It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country’, and comes from Horace’s Odes.
Owen describes this sentiment as a ‘Lie’ and the fact that he capitalises this I think makes it even more profound. Maybe he capitalised it for some other reason that I’m not entirely sure about, but I personally read it as being capitalised to emphasise the inaccurate truth and ‘patriotism’ that people back at home would have been fed about the war (not to say that patriotism is a bad thing, but just that maybe during this time it was surrounded and pushed by more lies and less reality?) I think it’s similar to Paul’s narrative in All Quiet on the Western Front, and even Nellie’s when she quits working as an ambulance driver, and of course Borden’s numerous narrations on the medical horrors that we read. All feel, maybe some more than others, that they were unable to say aloud the truth or go against the ‘lies’. By Owen also claiming that it was the ‘children’ who fed into this ‘desperate glory’ makes it more chilling, especially after reading the horrific ways in which these men died (‘his hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin’).

198 thoughts on “Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est

  1. Hey Sophia, you hit it right on the head! Sometime last year when I was visiting my grandparents, my grandmother gave me the poem to read. I think we were talking about something historically related at the time, and my grandmother gives me some of her anthologies sometimes since she was an English major like me. I didn’t know about All Quiet on the Western Front or Not So Quiet, but when my grandmother told me what that term meant, I could already see why Owen thought the term was a lie. How is it “sweet and proper to die for one’s country” when millions of men are sent to deplorable conditions to either die, get captured, or go home with PTSD?

    I also like your analysis of the “children” and “glory.” Very chilling indeed.

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