25 April 2011

the old lie

red sky in the morning
Anzac Day, 2011


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.

Wilfred Owen

16 comments:

Mary said...

Pro patria mori.

How well I remember studying this poem in high school and being overwhelmed by the force of it.

librarygirl said...

Yes, I also studied this poem in year 12 in the poetry of the first world war anthology. Dad was a Korea veteran and damaged by the experience. 2 grandfathers survived WW1, but one died only ten years after from injuries. Just could not blog about Anzac day today. Lest we forget.

rachel said...

Such a powerful poem; an indictment like no other. Thank you for posting it.

Tania said...

I find it impossible to write a blog post on this day. Wilfred Owen tells it with such force that chills to the bone.

zephyr said...

i've never read or heard this before.
Stunning in its honesty. Oh, the many horrible lies..

The Coffee Lady said...

I'm suddenly 15 again, doing my O level English.

Jan said...

I posted this in full on a blog some years ago in reference to first Gulf war.

So many commenters had heard only the dulce et decorum...quote and were surprised to see just how they fitted into the rest of the poem. Talk about taking things out of context!

froginthepond said...

We studied this poem not in literature but in our Yr 11 European history class. Wilfrid Owen and Sigfried Sassoon captured the futility of war so honestly. I have a feeling that it didn't necessarily make them or their poetry terribly popular at the time, precisely because of that 'old lie'.

It is this poem I remember every Anzac Day.

The Elephant's Child said...

True, ugly and too often hidden. Thank you for resurrecting it. And I so don't want to hear the crap/lies/sentimental platitudes that are told for the centenary of Gallipoli.

herhimnbryn said...

Thankyou for posting this. Owen wrote about the reality of war.

Shammickite said...

I learned this poem at Grammar School in England. It always makes me shiver.

RW said...

My son just studied this poem. I had somehow missed it during my public education. It is stunning.

Julie said...

just finished Regeneration and just ordered the next two in the trilogy. Have also been re-investigating Owen and Sassoon. amazingly powerful nearly a century on.

fiveandtwo said...

I have not read this before. Why not? I don't know. In my year 11 and 12 English we didn't study poetry (and this at a costly private boarding school).
I feel like I'm forever trying to "catch up" and improve my patchy knowledge of literature!

sewa mobil said...

Very nice, thanks.

Secret Admirer said...

I couldn't help but have tears in my eyes as I reached the end of this. Thank you for sharing it.