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How Sweet and Honorable It Is: A Euphemism of War? Essay

Dulce Et Decorum Est is a poem written by a young British Army soldier of the World War I turned poet Wilfred Edward Salter Owen. He was once commended as one of the most important figures in twentieth century and known as one of the best poets, he is also called as the Greatest War Poet in English Language as most of his literary pieces tackle stories of war and relevant topics. Owen wrote the said poem on 1917 during the First World War while he was on military service and tells accounts based primarily on his personal experience and points of view towards war.

However, the poem has made available in public three years after Owen got killed in 1918, days before the ceasing of the same war that he condemned. It was published posthumously to honor the author. Analytically, the meaning of the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est has to be a euphemistic narration of war with the purpose of either to promote patriotic deeds of the soldiers or to condemn the act of war per se.

Perhaps, the author wanted the reader to provide the right justification and/or connotation about the poem itself whether it has intentionally written to comfort the soldier as the old saying tells how noble it is to die for one’s own country, or sees the other way around, which is to point out something like it is really useless to end one’s life in a battle just like that. The title of the poem alone depicts ironic truth as the Latin phrase Dulce Et Decorum Est has the literal meaning “How Sweet and Fitting It Is”.

Even if it is a commending statement, it could also signifies sarcasm as he questions how sweet and fitting would it really be to die for something. Originally, the phrase has to be written like this: Dulce Et Decorum Est: Pro Patria Mori, which has the accurate meaning “How Sweet and Honorable It Is to Die For Your Country! ”, as the author excerpted this phrase from Quintus Horatius Flaccus’ third book among his four books of poem published on 23 B. C. , which entitled Odes or Carmina in Latin language.

Owen’s narrative poem all began on the first line of the first stanza “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks” which gives us descriptions that in real battle, odd feeling and uncomfortable situation of the ones involved in the chaos especially the soldiers, who are half-standing and half-lying, truly happens. Being in a chaotic war is never easy, and that is what the author trying to tell us. The word “double” in it offers a feeling of both the physical tiredness and emotional numbness at the same time, which the person involved could not just simply be withdrawn from and got nowhere to run.

As the first stanza offers physical and emotional torture being in a battle, the second stanza denotes psychological agony. “Gas! GAS! Quick boys! ” With this narrative, the author wants the reader to feel the state of panic and the urgency that has inflicted once in the midst of a chaotic ambiance where everyone struggles to survive. This could be the reason behind the usage of capital letters and exclamation points on the first line of the second stanza.

The third stanza, though it is the shortest stanza of the poem having only two short lines, illustrates clear and dramatic picture of the speaker’s encounter of a dying colleague in his dreams, or should we say nightmare, and how they both felt helpless in the traumatic situation. “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” Here, we can see that although the war is over, the tragic familiarity of the speaker still haunts him as a sign of trauma even when he’s asleep.

Thus, the war creates pain and suffering to the soldiers not only during war but moreso, even when the war is long ended. On the last stanza, the speaker addresses “you” which denotes direct involvement to the reader. He wishes to personally make an appeal to the public, particularly to the next generation, that the heroic deed of patriotically dying for the sake of one’s country is nothing but purely euphemistic act of injustice and pointless death because such kind of death could be preventable.

He concluded the poem by stating the irony of the title Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori, which he emphasized as an “old lie”. Wilfred Owen got many strong points in this poem that whoever read the text might be involved. Weakness if there’s any, has not obviously seen which make Owen surpass the level of being an amateur poet. The poem was simply a silhouette of Owen’s stand against the ongoing war that his audience would surely agree. Historians and students find this work very significant for the study of History to deeply understand World War I and the people behind it.

R E F E R E N C E S Owen, Wilfred. 1997. Dulce Et Decorum Est. Modern History Sourcebook: World War I Poetry. http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/1914warpoets. html#owen21 (accessed October 1, 2008). Barnhill, Candace. 2005. Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est. http://people. smu. edu/cbarnhil/ENGLISH/ENGL2327/engl2327. htm (accessed October 1, 2008). Osondu, Emmanuel. 2008. Biography: Wilfred Owen. Helium, Inc. http://www. helium. com/items/1167412-biography-wilfred-owen (accessed October 1, 2008).

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