Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was a Shropshire lad, famous for his poetry during the first world war. He is perhaps just as well-known for having been killed in action at the Sambre-Oise Canal just a week before the war ended, causing news of his death to reach home as the town's church bells declared peace. He was 25.

It seems terribly appropriate.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
"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 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 I 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.

Thank you, all the soldiers who fought for peace.


  1. Today (11/11) is Veterans Day, so I'm thinking of all those soldiers around the world this weekend.

  2. Poinient indeed - "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country". Very sad. We watched a programme about him this afternoon. He came from Shrewsbury and as you say his mother received the telegram on 11 Nov as everyone outside were celebrating the end to the war...

    What do you think of all this white poppy business? Not sure myself, I think the red one is respectful - blood shed, poppies in battlefields etc, but equally it would be good to see more peaceful alternatives to war.

    BTW - The poem reminds me of Miss Feeley and English at school. You?

  3. Deb, it does remind me of Miss Feeley and by association, cricket :)

    I haven't seen much about white poppies over here. I think the red poppy has been a symbol for so long it is a shame to change it. Blood spilled deserves recognition. The white poppy is a little ghostly, also apt but not as vivid?

  4. Veterans Day is humbling day for many who recognize the spirit, souls and lives that were lost for the quest of peace.

  5. His poem is so powerful.

    Here in Yellowknife there is much ado regarding Remembrance Day which I find heartening.

    The cadets have been out on the streets selling poppies, they held an all night vigil in 'reverse pose' at one of the war memorials (I'm glad it was only -10C for them as they were only in uniform) and then yesterday, on the 11th, the local regiments and squadrons of all the military branches here marched to the cenotaph, then to the legion, then to one of the local high schools for an indoor service.

    It was nice to see the support and honor being bestowed to our veterans.

  6. Thank you for posting this, Toni. I am giving a speech tonight at a retirement center on the origins of Armistice Day, or now as it is called, Veterans Day or Remembrance Day. Something we all need to remember. :-)

  7. Brandy, it is.
    Meretta, that's really great.
    Melissa, hope the talk goes well.

  8. Where did you find this poem? It's more shattering than either John McCrae's, or the one about "flying high and touching the face of God". I hate it when I can't remember names and titles! I think you know which poems I mean though. I'm going to copy this out for my dh.

  9. Laurie, we studied Wilfred Owen in school. And he was a local poet which made it more poignant. He has others.

    I do know who you mean. I can never think of names when I want to either.