- Oct 2017
In all my dreams before my helpless sight He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
It is interesting that the speaker gives us a graphic image of the sound of death using the language "guttering," "choking," and "drowning," yet it is in contrast to a dream-like state. This creates slight confusion as to whether we are now in the speaker's dream or his reality. This could be a futile attempt in showing how easy it is to have the lines of reality and fantasy cross; making the soldier a prisoner to war and "The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori."
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
We come back to this Latin phrase, “Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” yet again. After being exposed to the imagery of the cruelties produced by chemical warfare, the soldiers are forever altered like the state of being “drunk” or in "An ecstasy" with now having to constantly live in the aftermath of war. The allusion of this phrase creates a shattering of one owns belief and alters the idea of what it means to be patriotic; just as the gas alters the mental capacity of the individual fighting for their country.
To quote W.B. Yeats), a poet during the 1920's post-war Europe, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;" Our perception of war is forever changed through the lens and perspective of those used as human sacrifice.
Drunk with fatigue
War is not only difficult on the physical aspect of an individual; it is just as difficult on the emotional and mental capacity of a human. It is factual that WWI culminated an astronomical amount of casualties, destruction, and disablement. This reference to being “drunk” may help guide us into the notion that soldiers are not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality under the duress of mentioned “fatigue.” We can understand that the state of "drunk" alters your reality and can have dangerous repercussions; in this sense, the loss of one's mind or life. In the prior lines we have loss of physical functionalities of the human body with words such as “limped on,” “lame,” and “blind,” which coincides with the premature aging or physical deterioration of the soldiers.
Dulce et Decorum Est
This title was written in Latin and originally comes from the Roman poet Horace ode (III.2.13) which translates to “sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country.” Horace’s ode paints patriotism and nationalism in a positive light as opposed to Owen’s bitter and stark realization of the cost of patriotism; paid for at the expense of the physical and mental deterioration of the soldier’s body during the First World War. As Harold Bloom suggest, Owen’s aim was “to attack the concept that sacrifice is sacred; he hoped to destroy the glamorized decency of war.” It is important to keep the title in mind in regards to what it means in the connotation of sweet verses sickly.