Today I decided to re-read the wonderful works I held so dear while in high school, and even in my first couple years of college. I took English classes simply for the joy and the mystery they brought to my life. I have realized how much I still LOVE to read these works! I am remembering how much I love poetry–both reading and writing it–and how wonderful my mind feels after delving into these wonderful works.
One poem came to mind this morning, which led me to begin to re-read Oscar Wilde, William Wordsworth, Kate Chopin and T.S. Eliot. The poem is one from my sophomore year in high school, Advanced Writing, with Mrs. Cleo Gambetta. “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.” (in English–if I remember the Latin properly: It is fitting and proper to die for one’s country)I will never forget that phrase–and the poem it is from.
Dulce Et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
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 disappointed shells 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 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 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.
This poem, with some analysis, brings some very troubling concepts to mind…I wish I could remember all that we developed in that class, for we spent a week or so on this poem alone. I do remember that it gave me a new perspective on war, and on extreme patriotism. This man experienced the horrors of war, of a comrade dying a painful death from poison gas, and this experience has understandably left him embittered. He states at the end that you wouldn’t be so quick to send people to war if you had been there, had seen the screaming eyes of your comrades…you wouldn’t be so hasty to enter into battle…
This leaves much to ponder…