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.

The British poet Wilfred Owen (1893–1917) volunteered for service in World War I and was killed by enemy fire while leading an attempt to cross the Oise-Sambre canal just as the war was ending. The poem’s title and final statement, which the poet characterizes bitterly as “the old lie,” are from the Latin poet Horace: “sweet and good it is to die for one’s country.”

More from SDReader


nan shartel June 17, 2010 @ 3:42 p.m.

this is an amazingly insightful poem...i just finished reading the cover story "i was bred for this"...and this on the heels of that is a tour de force of the horror of "WAR"

and everyone lies...they lie and punish the young with duty pledges hopelessly cruel to accomplish

was not it ever thus

the blond curls gleaming

bodies strong

faith robust

kindred thoughts redeeming

embroider pride around thy brow

float the warriors flag on high

sing the songs of fervor loud

gather round become a crowd

of innocent participants

in yet another do or die

and die the lessor of the harm

but back they come to us dear ones

with life but missing legs and arms


nan shartel June 17, 2010 @ 3:47 p.m.

the old do lie and they don't go and fight the wars either


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