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 were lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
of gas-shells dropping softly 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 gurgling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
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.
— Wilifred Owens, 1917, published 1920
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace’s Odes (III.2.13). The line can be roughly translated into English as: “It is sweet and right to die for one’s country.”, “It is noble and glorious to die for your fatherland.” or “It is beautiful and honorable to die for your fatherland.”
“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae” In English this is rendered as: “It is sweet and right to die for the homeland, but it is sweeter to live for the homeland, and the sweetest to drink for it. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.” It was a frequent 19th century students’ toast.
Perhaps the most famous modern use of the phrase is as the title of a poem, “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, by British poet Wilfred Owen during World War I. Owen’s poem describes a gas attack during World War I and is one of his many anti-war poems that were not published until after the war ended. In the final lines of the poem, the Horatian phrase is described as “the old Lie.” It is believed that Owen intended to dedicate the poem ironically to Jessie Pope, a popular writer who glorified the war and recruited “laddies” who “longed to charge and shoot” in simplistically patriotic poems like “The Call.” The line has been commonplace in modern times throughout Europe. It was quoted by Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat immediately before his beheading on Tower Hill, London in 1747. It was much quoted in reference to the British Empire in the 19th century, particularly during the Boer War. Also Wilfred Owen used it in his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est which was written during World War I (Owen was killed in action one week before the war ended in 1918).
The following information on the World War 1 (aka The Great War) was gathered from EmersonKent.com, the website for the relaxed historian. It is a brilliant site and I highly recommend a look. If my history class had been so well organized, I might have cared about World War I in high school.
World War I: A short summary
Over 65 million troops were engaged in the First World War, an unprecedented number in 1914.
Consequently, the war also set a sad record in wreaking havoc.
For the most part, the war was fought in Europe; however, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia saw action as well.
What countries were involved in World War I?
In one way or another, almost everybody. Only the following countries managed to remain neutral:In Europe: Denmark, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain.
In the Americas: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela.
In Asia: Afghanistan and Persia.
In Africa: Abyssinia.
The main combatants of WWI
The Central Powers fought against the Allies.
The Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria.
The Allies were France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, United States, Romania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and Montenegro.
And here they are on a map.
Europe 1914 – Allied, Central, and Neutral Powers
What were the causes of World War I?
Imperialistic expansion was backed by a widespread net of military alliances. This extensive alliance system was vulnerable, since nothing could happen without everyone’s being affected.
In other words and simpler terms, everybody made a promise to everybody to help them out in case they got attacked. Now, all that needed to happen was someone had to sneeze and everybody would be forced to take sides and fight no matter what.
In fact, someone did sneeze June 28, 1914.
What started World War I?
On June 28, 1914, Serbian radical Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. A month later, on July 28, 1914, Austria declared officially war against Serbia and the rest of the globe followed into World War I.
What ended World War I?
Bulgaria surrendered on September 30, 1918; Turkey on October 30; and Austria-Hungary on November 4, 1918. On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany. World War I was officially ended.
The peace conference was headed by the “Big Four,” David Lloyd George of Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, and Woodrow Wilson of the United States.
Who won World War I? Who lost World War I?
The Allies were the victors of World War I. The Central Powers lost World War I.
What were the casualties of World War I?
During the four years of war, more than 8.5 million soldiers were killed and 20 million wounded. A total of 15,000,000 million deaths are estimated. Roughly 90% of all Austrian mobilized forces became casualties.
As an ex-military person, I can rarely express my feeling around Veterans Day. I guess the best I can say is that I feel lucky to have finished my term of service in one piece, physically. And doing research on earlier wars, makes me happy to be able to say that I was able come home almost the way I left. So this year for Veterans Day, I will give just a few facts about World War I that I thought I should have known before I joined the military. It might have changed my mind.