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The Poem Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Categories Literature, Poems

Essay, Pages 9 (2162 words)

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Essay, Pages 9 (2162 words)

The first poem I will explain is ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ it shows the realistic side of living on the front line. The title is in Latin ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ which gives the impression of an old Roman or Roman related poem. ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ is Latin for “It is sweet and honourable” the other part to that sentence is “Pro patrioa mori”. It means “to die for my country”.

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This means the sentence “Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro patrioa mori” means “It is sweet and honourable to die for my country”. This proposes the theory of early propaganda to lure young men into the army to fight in wars and to hide the awful conditions in which they fought in the trenches packed with soldiers and infections which lead to disease. It was a very deceiving title.

This poem is set in World War I, and when Wilfred Owen was a British soldier. So he probably did actually see the scene he describes in the poem and his experience convinced him that the saying, “Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori” or “It is sweet and honourable to die for my country” was no true.

The speaker does not believe that dying for one’s country is as glorious as they where led blindly to believe.

Wilfred Owens’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” contains four stanzas and with twenty-eight lines. The first stanza consists of eight lines with the rhyme scheme ABABCDCD. The second stanza consists of six lines with the rhyme scheme ABABCD.

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The third stanza smallest of all the stanzas with two lines but because it’s content is a lot stronger and dramatic it requires that it stand out from the others alone; although it continues the rhyme scheme from the preceding stanza CD. The fourth stanza consists of twelve lines which would make it the longest stanza and making it six times bigger than the smallest stanza, with the rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEF.

In the first Stanza the sentences:

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks”

In the first stanza, the speaker describes the march of soldiers who have fought hard, but now they are out of supplies and in desperate need of medical attention. The speaker is one the soldiers describing his fellow soldiers, his brothers of arms. Comparing them to beggars is a comment as they are regarded as disease-ridden, unhealthy, no strength and the lowest of the low in society. We usually see soldiers as heroes of the day and as healthy, happy, strong and courageous. He says they are “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge.”

But as they are retreating back from the front line they aren’t moving fast enough as they can still hear the “gas-shells dropping softly behind.” Many have no boots and their feet are bleeding, but they are heading to their “distant rest” though it is a difficult march. They are so tired they are “Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots”. This extraordinary line shows that even with death whizzing through the air behind them they are so tired that they can’t do anything but walk too safety not even noticing anything around him (the speaker).

At the start of the second Stanza: “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling”

Someone calls out “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!” This empathises the danger and how much the men dread getting gassed maybe from seeing others getting gassed or from story’s that they have heard while talking in the trenches or at other places war. And so they begin to hastily to put on their “clumsy helmets”. But one soldier did not get his gas mask on in time, and the speaker describes him: “But someone still was yelling out and stumbling / And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. – / Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, / As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.” I would like to pick on the words “Like a man in fire or lime” as lime was used in the middle ages by archers who would tie very thin bags or cotton around the tip of the arrow so that it would go into the air and get breathed into or come into contact with the eyes and cause a very severe burning sensation and very easily blinding people.

In the way mustard gas affects the respiratory system does mimic drowning, and thus the speaker is very accurate is portraying the unfortunate dying man as a drowning victim. The speaker narrows the scope by saying “under a green sea” as that was the colour the air would look after mustard gas had been released. Because the air looked like the sea, and the man who failed to get his helmet on in time is therefore drowning.

Third Stanza: “In all my dreams before my helpless sight”

The third stanza consists of merely two lines which were singled out due to there firstly simple and then complex nature, but they stand out very strongly in the speaker’s mind as they portray a man dying as he feels pain in every way horribly possible, so therefore it is artistically smart and beneficial to have the lines stand alone: “In all my dreams before my helpless sight / He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.” He writes a triplet of powerful emotive words with harsh letters in the middle with the ‘gutt’, ‘oke’, ‘wn’ which gives the three words a very dark and serious edge.

The speaker is continually haunted by the sight of his fellow soldier dying from the horrible mustard gas attack. He is dramatizing this scene some time after it occurred, but still his dreams are filled with this unforgettable sight, which is a regular nightmare for the speaker hoping that another man does not have to see the same sight of him in the back of the wagon shouting `till he can shout no more o`r for him to have to witness ever again.

Fourth Stanza: “If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace”

In the fourth stanza, the speaker addresses the reader, telling the reader that if he could experience the horrid scene of seeing a man die this excruciating death as you where walking behind the wagon with the man in infinite pain that seemed to go on for an eternity, “you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.”

The speaker calls the reader “My friend,” but the poet no doubt had in mind the lying politicians and bumbling military leaders who were encouraging young men to participate in the war effort. While they did nothing to help o`r improve the lives for the men who lived in the trenches and used terrible tactics to sent them in suicidal conditions across no-mans land.

The charge of the Light Brigade

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

A map of the Charge of the Light Brigade and the route they would have taken and here the Russians would have been waiting for them

The poem tells the story of a brigade consisting of 600 soldiers who rode on horseback into the “valley of death” for half a league (about one and a half miles). They were obeying a command to charge the enemy forces that had been seizing their guns.

Not a single soldier was discouraged or distressed by the command to charge forward, even though all the soldiers realized that their commander had made a terrible mistake: “Someone had blundered.” The role of the soldier is to obey and “not to make reply…not

to reason why,” so they followed orders and rode into the “valley of death.”

The 600 soldiers were assaulted by the shots of shells of canons in front and on both sides of them. Still, they rode courageously forward toward their own deaths: “Into the jaws of Death / Into the mouth of hell / Rode the six hundred.”

The soldiers struck the enemy gunners with their unsheathed swords (“sabres bare”) and charged at the enemy army while the rest of the world looked on in wonder. They rode into the artillery smoke and broke through the enemy line, destroying their Cossack and Russian opponents. Then they rode back from the offensive, but they had lost many men so they were “not the six hundred” any more.

Canons behind and on both sides of the soldiers now assaulted them with shots and shells. As the brigade rode “back from the mouth of hell,” soldiers and horses collapsed; few remained to make the journey back.

The world marvelled at the courage of the soldiers; indeed, their glory is undying: the poem states these noble 600 men remain worthy of honour and tribute today.

Form

This poem is comprised of six numbered stanzas varying in length from six to twelve lines. Each line is in diameter, which means it has two stressed syllables; moreover, each stressed syllable is followed by two unstressed syllables, making the rhythm dactylic. The use of “falling” rhythm, in which the stress is on the first beat of each metrical unit, and then “falls off” for the rest of the length of the meter, is appropriate in a poem about the devastating fall of the British brigade.

The rhyme scheme varies with each stanza. Often, Tennyson uses the same rhyme (and occasionally even the same final word) for several consecutive lines: “Flashed all their sabres bare / Flashed as they turned in air / Sab’ring the gunners there.” The poem also makes use of anaphora, in which the same word is repeated at the beginning of several consecutive lines: “Cannon to right of them / Cannon to left of them / Cannon in front of them.” Here the method creates a sense of unrelenting assault; at each line our eyes meet the word “cannon,” just as the soldiers meet their flying shells at each turn.

“The Charge of the Light Brigade” recalls a disastrous historical military engagement that took place during the initial phase of the Crimean War fought between Turkey and Russia (1854-56). Under the command of Lord Raglan, British forces entered the war in September 1854 to prevent the Russians from obtaining control of the important sea routes through the Dardanelles. From the beginning, the war was plagued by a series of misunderstandings and tactical blunders, one of which serves as the subject of this poem: on October 25, 1854, as the Russians were seizing guns from British soldiers, Lord Raglan sent desperate orders to his Light Cavalry Brigade to fend off the Russians. Finally, one of his orders was acted upon, and the brigade began charging–but in the wrong direction! Over 650 men rushed forward, and well over 100 died within the next few minutes. As a result of the battle, Britain lost possession of the majority of its forward defences and the only metalled road in the area.

In the 21st century, the British involvement in the Crimean War is dismissed as an instance of military incompetence; we remember it only for the heroism displayed in it by Florence Nightingale, the famous nurse. However, for Tennyson and most of his contemporaries, the war seemed necessary and just. He wrote this poem as a celebration of the heroic soldiers in the Light Brigade who fell in service to their commander and their cause. The poem glorifies war and courage, even in cases of complete inefficiency and waste.

This poem deals with an important political development in Tennyson’s day. As such, it is part of a sequence of political and military poems that Tennyson wrote after he became Poet Laureate of England in 1850, including “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington” (1852) and “Riflemen, Form” (1859). These poems reflect Tennyson’s emerging national consciousness and his sense of compulsion to express his political views.

This poem is effective largely because of the way it conveys the movement and sound of the charge via a strong, repetitive falling meter: “Half a league, half a league / Half a league onward.” The plodding pace of the repetitions seems to subsume all individual impulsiveness in ponderous collective action. The poem does not speak of individual troops but rather of “the six hundred” and then “all that was left of them.” Even Lord Raglan, who played such an important role in the battle, is only vaguely referred to in the line “someone had blundered.” Interestingly, Tennyson omitted this critical and somewhat subversive line in the 1855 version of this poem, but the writer John Ruskin later convinced him to restore it for the sake of the poem’s artistry. Although it underwent several revisions following its initial publication in 1854, the poem as it stands today is a moving tribute to courage and heroism in the face of devastating defeat.

Cite this essay

The Poem Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-poem-dulce-et-decorum-est-by-wilfred-owen-essay

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