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Poem commentary:"Dolce et Decorum est" by Wilfred Owen

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Essay: poem commentary: "Dolce et Decorum est" by Wilfred Owen In the poem "Dolce et Decorum est", Wilfred Owen relates an extremely powerful and intense episode of the First World War. As an English army officer, he experienced at first hand the harsh, inhuman and truly unbearable conditions this war imposed on the soldiers. He depicts in very crude, simple and powerful words the gruesome reality of the war: it kills indiscriminately, without warning, terrified men drunken with fatigue, prisoners of the dirt and sludge. The poem is structured in 3 paragraphs. The first paragraph sets the scene: it describes a group of soldiers looking like beggars, bent in two from exhaustion, struggling to advance in the mud. They are trying to reach a camp away from the front line where they would be able to rest. The reader is drawn in this situation to the point where he can imagine himself being physically there. W. Owen uses simple words that express without the shadow of a doubt the "point of non return" reached by the soldiers. ...read more.


Their minds are disturbed and no kind of rational reasoning is visible, while the bodies are highly exhausted, heavy and wounded. "cursed through sludge", "Men marched asleep." The sentences sound like heavy and wet boots clashing on the mud. At the end of the first stanza a deadly danger is announced but the soldiers do not react to this threat to their lives because they are so exhausted that do not hear anything. The second stanza sounds like a fire alarm, were the soldiers and the reader wake up from the slowness in order to save their lives. "Gas! Gas! Quick boys!" is a complete rupture with the previous tone of the poem. The exclamation marks and the repetition of short words make the poem acquire stress. This rapid change is radical for the reader and for the soldiers too. An image of un-coordination and disorganization arises. The third stanza is one long sentence, reflecting the idea portrayed in this stanza: horror, and total disgust at the tortured death of a soldier. ...read more.


Owen compares the cloud of gas to a green sea. Those scenes clearly shocked Owen. It even comes back into his dreams: "in all my dreams" (line 15), "in some smothering dreams" (line 17). He is still haunted by the memory of the man dying in front of his "helpless sight". This relates back to Owens' life, his shell-shock and his difficulty to find sleep. The last sentence completes the title of the poem, a quotation from the Latin poet Horace: "Dulce et Decorum est, Pro patria mori" which means: "It is fitting and honourable to die for your country" Owen makes his point very clear when he qualifies the quotation of a being a lie. He addresses the reader as a friend (line 25), who, if he had like them followed the wagon where the soldier lay dying, would never describe the war to young men ( "children") as a fitting and honourable way to die for one's country, because it is simply and bluntly, and old lie. ...read more.

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