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Veterans' Day 2011: 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.
- Wilifred Owen, died in 1918



Comments

  1. totally belated and somewhat irrelevant (it's obvs not about a veteran); still, my favorite WWI poem - which makes me cry every time I read it. In fact, I started crying as soon as I googled it.

    May Wedderburn Cannan, Lamplight (1917)

    We planned to shake the world together, you and I.
    Being young, and very wise;
    Now in the light of the green shaded lamp
    Almost I see your eyes
    Light with the old gay laughter; you and I
    Dreamed greatly of an Empire in those days,
    Setting our feet upon laborious ways,
    And all you asked of fame
    Was crossed swords in the Army List;
    My Dear, against your name.

    We planned a great Empire together, you and I,
    Bound only by the sea;
    Now in the quiet of a chill Winter's night
    Your voice comes hushed to me
    Full of forgotten memories: you and I
    Dreamed great dreams of our future in those days,
    Setting our feet on undiscovered ways,
    And all I asked of fame
    A scarlet cross on my breast, my Dear,
    For the swords by your name.

    We shall never shake the world together, you and I,
    For you gave your life away;
    And I think my heart was broken by war,
    Since on a summer day
    You took the road we never spoke of; you and I
    Dreamed greatly of an Empire in those days;
    You set your feet upon the Western ways
    And have no need of fame -
    There's a scarlet cross on my breast, my Dear,
    And a torn cross with your name.

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