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Trace the History of the "Old Lie" - The term the "Old Lie" was used by Wilfred Owen in his poem "Dulce et Decorum Est".

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Trace the History of the "Old Lie" The term the "Old Lie" was used by Wilfred Owen in his poem "Dulce et Decorum Est" to describe what he thought of the motto "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" which translates litteraly as "it is sweet and honourable to die for ones country". This motto was written by a famous roman poet called Horace in a poem called Odes. When Horace wrote his poem war was fought with hand to hand combat and so the best soldier would normally win. By the time that Owen wrote his poems it was a new era of warfare and it was possible for the best-trained soldier to be killed by a gas shell fired from many miles away by an enemy who could not even see him. Because of this war had become unfair. When Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote his poem "The Charge Of The Light Brigade" the attitude to war was that it was honourable to die for your country and that it was every individuals duty to do something for their country and that fighting for their country was part of that duty. In this essay I will consider five poems that relate to warfare from a time period of 200 years. ...read more.


The title is ironic, as it is the opposite of the theme of the poem that is war. It is also strange as the final word of the poem is "Death" and this has been capitalised. The form of the poem is the same as The Soldier as it contains and 8 line octet and a 6 line sestet. In the 6th and 7th lines of the first stanza Brooke seems to be saying that it is dishonourable and cowardly not to fight for your country. "Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move, And half men, and their dirty songs and dreary" But after saying all this Rupert Brooke did not fight in WW1 for his country. Brooke seems to be saying throughout the poem that if you fight for your country you will be better person mentally and spiritually in the quotes "Naught broken save this body" and "the laughing heart's long peace there". Brooke also uses the euphemism of describing death as sleep "but sleep has mending" in order to soften the blow of using a harsh word such as death although he does use the word in the final line of his poem but this is not in a negative context. In the 5th line of the first stanza Brooke talks of the world in peacetime and says that "Glad from a world grown so ...read more.


The opening 2 lines of the poem are "Bent double like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge," These lines describe the soldiers as won out emotionally and physically by the war in which they have fought. In the 2nd and 3rd stanza's Owen describes a soldier who has been killed by one of the new very powerful weapons of WW1 and WW2, gas. It describes how the young soldier seems to start burning in the gas and uses sickening imagery such as "froth corrupted lungs" to describe this soldier throwing up his lungs and dying a slow and painful death. In the final 4 lines of the poem Owen seems to be directing sarcasm at Brooke and Tennyson and also other poets who believed in what Owen referred to as the old lie. He seems to be saying to them that if you had seen the real war then you would not be so confident telling kids Horace motto. The final 4 lines are a very strong note on which to end a poem and so this is why I think that Owen chose these as his closing lines. Throughout this essay I have shown the changing attitudes to war through the ages from the Crimean war and Alfred Lord Tennyson through to the WW2 attitude of Wilfred Owen. The attitude of Owen is an attitude to war that is maintained today. VI I ...read more.

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