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Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) was a British soldier and poet. His poetry from the front lines of the trenches of World War I went on to become some of the most famous war poetry in history. Owen was killed in battle, just one week before the war ended. “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” written from the trenches just one year before his death, is one of the most famous anti-war poems ever written.

Dulce Et Decorum Est
Wilfred Owen, 1917

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 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 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.

*NOTE: "Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori" is Latin for, "It is sweet
and right to die for your country."

1st January 2007

Spoken Word: Wilfred Owen