It was written in 1917 while Owen was at Craiglockhart. One version was sent to Susan Owen, the poet's mother, with the inscription, 'Here is a gas poem done yesterday.' The poem paints a battlefield scene of soldiers trudging along only to be interrupted by poison gas. One soldier does not get his helmet on in time and is thrown on the back of the wagon where he coughs and sputters as he dies.
The speaker bitterly and ironically refutes the message espoused by many that war is glorious and it is an honor to die for one's country. The poem begins with a description of a group of soldiers retreating from the front lines of the battlefield to the army base camp. The soldiers are “bent double” with tiredness and are compared to ‘old beggars under sacks’ who carry their belongings, clearly indicating the crippled state of the soldiers in the war. The soldiers are “knock-kneed” (trying to keep their knees together and feet wide apart to be able to balance themselves while walking). They are so tired that they are unable to walk as if their limbs are tied to sacks. The soldiers are coughing like ‘hags’(old women) and kept on cursing and walking through the soft wet soil. The soldiers are in great pain as they “turn their backs” to “the haunting flares”.
The men are completely fatigued, ‘men marched asleep.’ Many of the soldiers have lost their boots, are seen limping on blood and gore, heightening the grim scene. All of them were lame and blind. The repetition of the fatigued state of the soldiers is evident throughout the first stanza, ‘old beggars under sacks’, ‘men marched asleep’, and then in the final lines of the stanza, ‘Drunk with fatigue.’ The soldiers are so tired that they did not hear the droppings of the Five-Nines (explosive shells shot through barrels of 5.9 inches) behind them. Someone freaks out, ‘Gas! Quick boys!’ The soldiers are immediately transported into an ‘ecstasy of fumbling’ as they are in a hurry to put on the helmets before the deadly poison can take their lives. The helmets given to them are heavy and substandard. All except one are successful in wearing those in time.
He was found ‘yelling and stumbling/ And floundering like a man in fire or lime.’ The narrator looks back and finds the soldier and his protective mask engulfed into the “green sea”, that refers to the dense green fog created by chlorine gas released in the air. In the final stanza of the poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est, the poet describes the face of the dying soldier which haunts him in his dreams. The dream smothers (suffocates) him. Mx341 avr manual voltage regulator.
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The soldier’s lifeless body was flung into the wagon to be taken back to the base camp. The poet saw the white eyes of the soldier ‘writhing (twisting in pain) in his face.’ The face hanging loose from the body and is compared to a face of the devil who is tired of sin.
It is ironical that the soldier’s face appears like a devil since he himself is a victim of the evil of warfare. He appers to be God’s fallen angel thrown into Hell. One could hear at every movement, the gargling of the blood from the forth-corrupted lungs. The pain undergone by the soldier is ‘obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud of vile.’ The “bitter cud” denotes the unpleasant memories the survivors of the incident will have. The “vile incurable sores on innocent tongues” are the completely unacceptable false ideals which the young soldiers are made to believe in, in order to glorify their roles as soldiers.
What is most noticeable to the readers in Owen’s poetry is the vividness of his imagery. Dulce Et Decorum Est is full of fine imagery.
The poet had been successful in bringing the horrors of the war come alive to the eyes of the readers. Some of the imageries are expressed in presented in metaphors, others are presented in graphic language that describes the scene as the narrator sees it or remembers it.
“We cursed through sludge” captures and presents the frustrations of the men who were mentally and physically drained of their energies as they marched across the battlefield. To describe the difficulty faced by the soldiers who have lost their boots, the poet uses imagery to intensify the moment, “But limped on, blood-shod.’ This imagery graphically represented the condition of the men’s feet. A sense of pity is felt by the readers reading those lines. Other phrases vivid with imagery are “white eyes writhing in the face”, “blood gargling out from the forth-corrupted lungs”, “floundering like a man in fire or lime.” All these imageries are intended to contrast with the Latin maxim from which the poem’s title has been taken, Dulce Et Decorum Est that is “Sweet and Proper” to undergo the disembodiment, suffering and death for one’s own country.
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