Thursday, August 10, 2017

War Poem for Jingoistic “Armchair Generals” – Dulce et Decorum est

When I watch jingoistic war-mongering on TV debates – I am reminded of this war poem...

Ramblings of a Retired Veteran

Here is a poem by Wilfred Owen I read in school – the poem is about the horrors of war and was written during the First World War (when Chlorine Gas was used as a weapon).

Nevertheless – this classic piece of war poetry is relevant even today – where soldiers continue to die every day – and jingoists – who may not have seen a shot fired in anger – continue to exhort soldiers to die for their country – while they themselves remain safely ensconced in their homes.

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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines 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 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.
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

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 - March, 1918


“DULCE ET DECORUM EST” are the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace).

The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War.

They mean “It is sweet and right”

The full saying ends the poem:

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”

(It is sweet and right to die for your country)

In other words:

It is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

The poet calls this “THE OLD LIE”

Do you agree...?

Is it right for jingoistic politicians, “armchair generals”, media-persons, veterans, academicians, journalists, bureaucrats and assorted civilians to indulge in warmongering – and exhort the soldier to die for his country  while they themselves are safely ensconced in their offices and homes – in peaceful places like Delhi and Mumbai  far away from combat zones...? 

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This is a revised repost of my blog post DULCE ET DECORUM EST A WAR POEM FOR “ARMCHAIR GENERALS” and JINGOISTS written by me Vikram Karve more then 4 years ago in 2013/2014 and posted online in my blog at urls:  and  etc

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