“Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen

“Dulce et Decorum est” is a well-known anti-war poem by Wilfred Owen, In this poem, Owen describes the shock of a gas attack and the effects they had on soldiers who were lucky enough to survive them. From a glance at the poem, you can see that the poem is broken into 4 verses and structured around three disturbing images. The poem itself is written in two parts (14 lines each); the first part is written in present tense, as if he’s one of the soldiers, and the second part is written as if he’s watching what’s happening from a distance. Owen’s effort to convey the horrors of war was successful because the imagery he used throughout the poem was solid.

Here is the poem:

In the first stanza, a group of soldiers are in no man’s land, trying to go back into the trenches. During the first few lines, the reader can easily picture the horrible conditions of the trenches; the soldiers were compared to beggars because of their physical and mental conditions. The second image, in the second stanza, is more disturbing; Owen writes about a soldier who fails to put his gas mask on, in a timely manner, during a gas attack. And last but not least, the third image Owen depicts is in the fourth stanza. In it, Owen illustrates how that dying soldier, and other dead soldiers, was/were treated by writing, “Behind the wagon that we flung him in,” (18). This shows that they were all tossed into a wagon and buried together, without a proper burial.

In the last two lines of the poem (28 and 29), Owen writes, “the old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori”. The last two lines are important because the title of the poem comes from it, and he rejects Horace’s beliefs. Horace was an Ancient Roman poet who wrote, in the Odes, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” (III.2.13). “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” can be translated as “It is sweet and proper to die for the fatherland”. Wilfred calls Horace’s glorification an old lie and tries to prove how choking, and dying, from a gas attack is neither sweet nor proper. He ends the poem with that, for a deeper effect, which worked.

Semper Fi

Today, in the afternoon, I was in the car, sitting next to my mom, who was driving us both home. We were on the highway. Most highways have billboards up, so people, companies, and/or organizations can advertise what they want to sell or promote. The highway we were on was no different. When we passed a billboard, I glanced at the advertisement. It was advertising the US Marine Corps by having a young man, wearing a Marines uniform, stand in front of the United States flag. Above him was the caption “Semper Fi”. This immediately caused me to start thinking about what “Semper Fi” meant because I already knew that Semper is an adverb in Latin, and the definition of it is ‘always’. After Googling ‘what is semper fi’, I found out that Fi is short for fidelis. It was easy to piece the meaning together after finding that little piece of information. Fidelis means loyal and/or loyalty, in Latin, like fidelity. This means that the motto of the US Marines Corps must mean “Always Loyal”! Because of my Latin knowledge, this took two seconds to figure out, instead of remaining confused about its meaning.

Food Provisions

Each Ancient Roman soldier ate about one third of a ton of grain a year. The army also had a nice supply of biscuits, sour wine, and bacon. When they were on their enemies’ land for war, they brought cattle with them for an extra supply of meat. If the food ever ran out, the army would take food from others. From all of the soldiers’ letters, there had been no complaints about the food.

Today, modern soldiers have MRE, meals ready to eat, meals because they last longer. They have developed into the main rations for soldiers. Over time, metal cans evolved into plastic that can easily protect the food. Both food choices and quality of the food has drastically improved. They are durable for up to years and can be used easily by soldiers. The foods include: dried fruits, nuts, powdered drinks, snacks, and a ready to eat meal.

To me, the Ancient Romans’ food was better because it was more fresh and less processed. However, it wasn’t that durable. Hence, although the food today is durable, and there are more food choices today, I’d rather eat less processed food and eat what the Ancient Roman soldiers ate. What would you do?