Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dulce and the Devil

Another find from my recent dive into Daughter Number Three-Point-One's art files:

I'm not sure about the year, but clearly it was somewhere between 2003 and 2005. DN3.1 was 10 to 12 years old at the time. It's hard to read here, but the word soul is inserted between U.S. and sacrifice in the headline.

Which reminds me. This morning the Star Tribune ran a New York Times story about why chemical weapons seem so much worse than conventional bombs and so on. The lead mentions Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est," which I loved in high school to the point of memorizing parts of it.

Here it is.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering 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.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, 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.
Thanks to my 11th grade English teacher for holding an elective on anti-war literature.

1 comment:

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Powerful poem. I know there are other reasons that nations draw the line at chemical weapons but this poem will suffice for me.