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Dulce Et Decorum Est

6 Pages 1459 Words

Interpretive Essay
“Dulce Et Decorum Est”
By Wilfred Owen

“In October 1917 Wilfred Owen wrote to his mother from Craiglockhart, ‘Here is a gas poem, done yesterday…….the famous Latin tag means of course it is sweet and meet to die for ones country. Sweet! And decorous!’” {1}

Wilfred Owens poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” is a magnificent and stirring description of a gas attack suffered by a group of soldiers in World War I. Inspired by the author’s first hand experience, the poem’s grim description is especially moving. The title is ironic, as the work goes on to communicate the ridiculousness of the old Latin saying from the perspective of a soldier.
The poem is composed of four stanzas. The first two appear to be in English sonnet form, although the last two are not nearly as structured. The tone from the outset is one of exhaustion and horror. The speaker’s words continually evoke realistic images of the scene before him. Through a combination of similes and metaphors, the author presents powerful literal images of war and artfully communicates the sense of despair with which the witnesses must have been struck.
The word selection of the first stanza immediately invokes the realistic visualizations for which the poem owes its impact. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through the sludge”. The image is one of exhaustion and despair. It is easy for the reader to visualize this scene and the dreadful conditions from the power of the speaker’s description.
The reference of old beggars seems so out of place, as these were predominantly young men. What conditions could have made these strong young men appear to the speaker as old beggars? The simile begs the reader to consider the conditions they endured. Visualize these old yet young men cursing through the sludge. A sense of monotony is evident with the use of the wo...

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