Dulce et Decorum Est By: Wilfred Owen

Dulce et
Decorum Est
By: Wilfred Owen
Authors Biography
• Owen was born on March
18, 1893.
• On October 21st, 1915 he
enlisted himself to become
a soldier due to peer
• He served in the British
army during WWI.
• He was an English poet.
• Owen is considered one of
the top WWI poets.
• His poem was based on his
personal experiences as a
• After two traumatic events
Owen met Siegfried
Sassoon who had an
incredible impact in his
life & inspired him to
develop his war poetry.
• Owen was shot trying to
cross a canal on Nov. 4th
1918 near the village of
Ors & this event defined
his death.
Place of death
Poem Structure
The title is a partial quotation from the
longer “Dulce et decorum est pro patria
mori" which can be translated to “it is
sweet and right to die for your native
The ballade is made up of 3
stanzas of 8 lines with the rhyme
scheme ABABBCBC, and a final 4line envoy with the scheme BCBC.
The title is in the Latin words taken
from an ode by Horace. (poet of Ancient
Rome, 65-8 BC)
This poem can be understood as two
sonnets though the spacing is irregular.
Owen uses more rhymes than
this, and breaks up his stanzas
irregularly into 8, 6, 2, and 10
lines plus a couplet.
Owen’s objective is to show the
horror and the reality of war,
which in this case is the First
World War.
The tone of the poem is very
harsh due to the choice of words
and how they are used.
The poem is similar to the French
ballade form, the poem consists of 28
lines which is the number of lines used
in the French “ballade” structure.
Ballade is a form of medieval and
Renaissance French poetry.
(not to be confused with ballad)
Poem Diction
For example words that show
ugliness, fear, and pain:
“coughing like hags”
“cursed through sludge”
“limped on, blood-shod”,
“floundering like a man in
fire or lime”
“guttering, choking,
“white eyes writhing”
“blood come gargling from
the froth-corrupted lungs”
“vile, incurable sores”
Words that show his own
feelings & contrasts it the
way war has been
“Knock-kneed, coughing
like hags, we cursed
through sludge”
“hags” – female like witch figures
“cursed through sludge”- a battle
field of mud, explains how hard
it was to move through the
“limped on, blood-shod”-covered
in blood
“floundering like a man in fire or
lime” - lime is a white chalky
substance which can burn live
“guttering, choking, drowning”forms of pain.
“cursed” - to afflict with great
“blood come gargling from the
froth-corrupted lungs”
- corrupted can be argued that the
young men were corrupted into
fighting in the war and killing
“obscene”- disgusting to the senses.
“bitter” – unpleasant.
“vile” – bad.
“Knock-kneed, coughing like hags,
we cursed through sludge”
- referring to old people, and it was
difficult to move through the mud.
“Ecstasy” - a state of being beyond
reason and self-control.
Poetic Devices
A commonly used phrase, is
“bent double” & is an example of
a hyperbole.
Poetic form serves to symbolize
the breakdown of the society's
value system.
Enjambments in lines
3,5,7,17,21,23,26, and 28.
Metaphor: “drunk with fatigue”
“GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!” creates
an impression of urgency and
At the start of the poem, the soldiers
are approached to old, crippled ugly
“Bent double, like old beggars under
sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like
Simile: “Dim, through the misty
panes and thick green light, As under
a green sea, I saw him drowning.”
-The thick greenish glass of the gas
mask, and the greenish fumes of the
gas make the narrator feel that he
was viewing an underwater scene.
Another use of simile: “like a man in
fire or lime”
-Expresses the burning and the pain
caused by the mustard gas when it
comes into contact with their skin,
eyes and mucous membranes.
More Similes
• “His hanging face, like a
devil's sick of sin”
- If a devil becomes sick of
sin, he is questioning
everything that has been
seen as value, and realizes
his whole life has been for
nothing, perhaps Owen is
implying that in the same
way, the dying soldier is
questioning everything he
has been told about the
sweetness of dying for a
• "bitter as the cud" imitate
"those who die as cattle",
words used by Owen in his
poem “Anthem for
Doomed Youth”.
- The soldiers are being led
to slaughter like helpless
animals, where the dying
soldier is being treated
more like an animal
carcass than like a human
being, not from cruelty,
but because nothing else
could have been done in
that situation.
This picture shows how hard it
was to move through the
battlefield due to the mud.
• “Knock-kneed, coughing
like hags, we cursed
through sludge”
• “Men marched asleep.
Many had lost their boots”
• “And watch the white eyes
writhing in his face”
- The use of alliteration
adds to the insistent tone
of the poem.
• Owen is saying, “Hey!
Look! I want you to look at
this and remember!”
- He says this so that it is
impossible to turn away
and think of other things.
Groups of Imagery
A – tiredness, sleep, dreams,
a nightmare world: “Men
marched asleep”, “Drunk with
fatigue”, “In all my dreams”,
“If in some smothering
dreams”, Owen apparently
suffered from nightmares,
perhaps as a result of shellshock.
C – loss of coordination:
“Bent double”, “Knock
kneed”, “Drunk with fatigue”,
“floundering”, “writhing”
B – the sea and drowning:
“Dim, through the misty
panes and thick green light /
As under a green sea, I saw
him drowning.” “He plunges
at me, guttering, choking,
drowning.”, “gargling from
the froth-corrupted lungs”
D – loss of the ability to use
the senses, or a denial of the
senses: “turned our backs”,
“marched asleep”, “all blind”,
“deaf even to the hoots”, “my
helpless sight”
Dulce et Decorum Est is a poem written by English poet and World
War I soldier Wilfred Owen in 1917, and was published
posthumously in 1920. From 1913 to 1915 he worked as a language
tutor in France. He felt pressured by the propaganda to become a
soldier and volunteered on 21st October 1915. He spent the last day
of 1916 in a tent in France joining the Second Manchester's. During
war he was blown up, concussed and suffered shell-shock. On 4th
November he was shot and killed near the village of Ors. He is known
to be the greatest war poet who had written in the English language.
Owen's poem is known for the condemnation of war. His poem was
the best known poem of the First World War. Lines 1 and 2 Owen
talks about how they are like “old beggars” and are “coughing like
hags” he is saying that they feel old and since they are soldiers that
are young and fit, for Owen to describe them in those terms must
have meant that they were really tired. In lines 3 and 4 the soldiers
turned away from the lights and noise of the war and headed back in
the direction of their camp. In line 4 he used “trudge” to emphasize
that it was really difficult moving because of the mud like if it had
rained. Line 5 he explains how they are so tired they are barley
conscious enough to walk.
In the second stanza he indicates that there had been shells which
had landed near them , didn’t explode but started letting out poison
gas, which happened to be mustard gas and also describes how one
man wasn’t able to get his mask on before he started to inhale the
poisonous gas, he writes how he saw the man suffering as if he
couldn’t swim and started gulping in water, and eventually drowning.
In lines 15 and 16 he is half talking about the present, and half about
the his past. He is remembering the man who died slowly and
painfully in front of him, and also his post-traumatic flashbacks to this
moment. In lines 17 and 18 he is saying that no one can actually try to
understand how they felt, it was one of those moment were you just
had to be there, the best someone can do is experience the nightmare
at a distance. Line 19 is a use of alliteration and assonance with the
“w” and “I” sounds. The line “like a devils sick of sin” is kind of
twisting because if the devil lives to sin, saying he is sick of it is
saying that there is no longer a purpose for his existence. In the last 4
lines Owen is calling out propaganda artists, and poets that urged
people into war, in particular Owen Seaman who wrote “Pro patria”,
explaining that before the war young men had the anticipation of
excitement for the first battle, the shock of the WWI was how
miserable war and death really was, which is referring to “The old Lie:
Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.” Perhaps then the mustard gas
can be seen as a reflection of the poison of the war itself.
1. When was the Owen born?
2. Who made a great impact in Owen’s
3. Which war is his poem based on?
4. What does the poem title translate
a) “It’s sweet and wrong..”
b) “It’s sweet and right..”
c) “It’s sweet and dark..”
d) “It’s sweet and harsh..”
5. What kind of tone does this poem
have? Why?
6. How many stanzas does this poem
7. In the begging of the poem who are
the soldiers being compared to?
8. How many guys were affected in the
poem by the poisonous gas used
in the war?
a) 1
b) 2
c) 3
9. What kind of gas was exposed to the
a) chlorine gas
b) gasoline
c) body gas
d) none of the above
10. Provide one simile from the poem.