In both of these poems, there is a description of personal experiences that he had during the war. The experiences that Owen describes were terrible experiences. Owen feels that war is wrong and that it should not be happening. He describes what it is really like out there instead of the fantasies that people have about war. In “Dulce et Decorum Est”, he describes a gas bomb attack and how someone died because of it. At the start of the poem, he describes the predicament they are in after walking so far in sludge.
In “Futility”, Owen describes how a farmer dies from hypothermia, and how he thought of ways, that he could save him, but he knew that none of these ways would work because he was dead. This is a very sad poem and shows that he really hates war because of all the people who died because of it. He tries to describe what it feels like when you see someone suffer and eventually die. This shows the situation they are in before the gas bomb it thrown. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge. ”
This is telling us that they are carrying very heavy sacks on their backs and they are walking in sludge. This is weighing them down and they are struggling to keep going. They would be coughing because of all the smoke that they are breathing in from the bombs. This has a big effect on him, as he did not think that war would be like this, he had all the fantasies that everyone else had. Actually, it is totally the opposite of what he expected. This is a message to all the people who are considering joining in, and a message to his family and friends about what he is going though.
He replaces people’s dreams of war and replaces it with an image of people suffering and dying. Owen thinks that everyone has a right to know what they are really in for if they do join in, he wants everyone to know the truth about war. In the next stanza of the poem, the whole situation changes from people suffering, to people having to act quickly to stay alive. A gas bomb is dropped behind they and everyone has to get their gas masks on quickly to stay alive because of the gas. In this stanza, Owen tries to give as a taste of what it was like when they were attacked.
He describes them as ‘fumbling’ and ‘stumbling to make us feel uncomfortable, and then he describes what he saw when one of the soldiers did not hey his gas mask on in time. He was “flound’ring like a man on fire or lime… ” Then he tells us “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning” This brings out his own helpfulness and horror. He makes us feel uncomfortable as we can imagine what it is like to suffocate or drown. He feels that no one should suffer as if they were before dying.
Then there is a very short stanza to let us know how helpless he feels at that moment. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. ” He described the man in just three words, which is more that enough to let us imagine what he saw, it makes us think what we would have done in this situation. It is separate from the rest of the poem because he is describing his helplessness. The last part of this poem, he shows us what he saw and was feeling at the time, trying to tell us that no one should want to go through what he is going through. He wishes that he could just stop the whole thing and not let it happen again.
He tries to convince us that war in not what you think it is, but much worse. He is mad that all of this is happening, he is not thinking about defending his country any more, and he is more concerned about his survival. Another one of Owens poems, “Futility”, describes another death, the only difference is that the person is already dead when he finds him, and he probably died from hypothermia. ‘Futility’ describes his feelings more when he sees this dead body. The dead body is a soldier that used to be a farmer who lived in France. They wish that they could save him.
He is thinking that maybe the sum may help the dead soldier, or wishing that it could. He was thinking that the sun might warm the soldier up and save him. He starts to describe what the soldier would have done in the morning before he became a soldier, when he used to live on a far in France. He said that in the morning, the sun would always wake him up, and he would start work, he thought that if the sun always used to wake him then, it might wake him now. As the first poem describes how he feels when he sees someone dying, this poem describes how he feels when he sees someone dead.
He prays for the dead soldier to survive, and hopes for a miracle to happen, he wants to believe that the soldier will survive. We would think that as a soldier, he would get used to seeing people die, but he is trying to tell is that actually, the more deaths they see, the more depressing it becomes when they see another death. He also uses half rhymes in his poem to make us feel uncomfortable when reading it. For example, ‘once’ and ‘France’ at the end of line two and four, do not quite rhyme.
After this, at the end of the stanza, there is finally a rhyme to make us feel relieved, for example, ‘snow’ and ‘know’ rhyme. This is an attempt by Owen to try to show his feelings. Owen feels uncomfortable when he sees the body because he does not know what to do about it, and all the mixed feelings in him is driving him to despair. In the next stanza he say’s “Think how it wakes the seeds” This line makes no sense, because a seed is nothing like a dead body, it is showing that he wants it to make sense and he is hoping that the sun will awaken him, even though it will not.
He say’s this because of all the thoughts that are going through his head, they are all confusing him, he is describing how he felt, He goes further with this thought, he say’s “We woke once, the clays of a cold star. ” Here he is telling us that the sun bought the earth to life, so it should be able to bring this dead soldier life. We know that it will not, but he is praying that it will. He then poses a rhetorical question because he feels incomprehension. He is asking god to save this mans life.
Both of these poems describe a death and both of them make us feel sad, and make us think about what it must be like to see someone die like Owen did. This is what Owen was trying to see do. Just send us a message that makes us think, and maybe try to make us against the idea of seeing someone suffer and die. It could just as easily have been Owen that did not find his gas mask, and if we were there, it could have been us. This is a terrible thought, and when we read his poems, we realise this.
This proves that Owen is against war and those people who advocate it. He wants the war to stop and to never go into war again. Owen has mixed feelings about war, and this confuses him sometimes, it is as if he is dreaming, for example, in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ “In all my dreams, before my helpless sight” This is telling you how he feels, he is saying that it is worse that any nightmare that he has ever had, and that it is so unbelievable, he thinks that he may be dreaming, or wants it to be a dream so that he can just wake from it and it will all be over.
Here’s another example in ‘Futility’. “Think how it wakes the seed” He thinks that or is dreaming that the sun will wake him like it does the seeds that he once grew. In both of these poems, he wants it to be a dream so as he can wake up and none of it would have happened, because it is so terrible. Owen wants us to realise that war is wrong and that it should not be happening, because of all the people that suffer from it.
Wilfred Owen set his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” during World War I on the western front in France. His purpose—to protest against the mentality that perpetuates war—is unmistakable, but what sets the work apart from much other antiwar literature is the effectiveness of his tightly controlled depiction of war.
The first fourteen of the poem’s twenty-eight lines comprise a sonnet that vividly describes a single terrible moment. The last twelve address the reader directly, explaining the significance or moral of the incident. The speaker is among a company of exhausted men who after a stint at the front are marching unsteadily toward the rear when they are suddenly overtaken by poison gas. After they hastily pull on their gas masks, the speaker sees through the misty lenses that one of them, somehow maskless, is staggering helplessly toward him. He watches the man succumb to the gas, desperately groping the air between them as he drops to the ground, like someone drowning. The third stanza shifts the context to the speaker’s dreams. In a single couplet, the speaker declares that in all his dreams he sees that soldier plunging toward him. In the final stanza, he turns to the readers, telling them that if they, too, could have experienced such dreams and watched the soldier dying on the wagon into which the soldiers flung him, they would never repeat to their children “The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mori.”
Throughout the war, this Latin phrase—a quotation from the Roman poet Horace (Odes III. 2.13, 23 and 13 b.c.e.)—was frequently used in inspirational poems and essays. In a letter to his mother, Owen provides the translation, “It is sweet and meet to die for one’s country,” and he expostulates sarcastically, “Sweet! And decorous!”
Owen is often judged to be the most remarkable of the group of “war poets” who emerged during World War I. Although “Dulce et Decorum Est” is seldom considered to be technically Owen’s finest poem, it is nevertheless among his most famous because it captures so compellingly not only the tribulations of the soldiers who fought in the war but also their belief that the patriotic rhetoric on the home front and the government’s refusal to negotiate a peace were more to blame for their suffering than the opposing soldiers. Owen, who was an officer with the Manchester Regiment, planned to publish “Dulce et Decorum Est” in a volume that was to present the truth about the war, which he knew to be utterly at odds with the belligerent cant that appeared daily in newspapers and in magazines in England.
Two drafts of the poem carry the dedication “To Jessie Pope etc” (two other drafts simply say “To a certain Poetess”), suggesting that Owen had originally specifically targeted such individuals as Jessie Pope, whose collection of children’s verses, Simple Rhymes for Stirring Times (1916), was intended to kindle enthusiasm for the war.
In the end, Owen removed the sarcastic dedication, perhaps to make clear that he wished to address a much broader readership. Most people in England greeted the outbreak of war in August, 1914, with enthusiasm. Wars of recent memory were limited, distant affairs; the people expected adventure and heroism from a contained conflict that would be over by Christmas. Instead, after the second month of the war, when Germany’s march on Paris was halted at the Marne, the opposing armies dug themselves into trenches facing each other across a narrow strip known as No Man’s Land, a line that stretched across Belgium and France. In part because of the efficiency of machine guns and because tanks were not deployed until near the end of the war, neither side was able to dislodge the other. Millions of men lost their lives in costly and fruitless attempts to break the stalemate; in just one day, July 1, 1916, the great offensive at the River Somme took the lives of sixty thousand men. Rats, lice, and the sight of exposed corpses were inescapable conditions of trench warfare. By the time the war ended, all those who experienced the horrors of trench warfare were forced to abandon their belief in the superiority of European civilization and the idea of European progress.
In the opening lines of “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Owen vividly portrays the price of trench warfare, the exhaustion of soldiers who become like old women, “hags,” coughing, lame, blind, and deaf. The poet speaks for these individuals who, though they no longer function in tidy military unison, are joined by their shared experience of a nightmare that seems just at the point of being over when the new assault arrives. The deadly gases (at first chlorine, later phosgene and mustard gas) that remain a hallmark of World War I were first used on a large scale on the Western Front. Although soldiers were equipped with respirator masks, more than one million men died from such attacks. The gas, whose effects Owen describes in the second stanza, is the odorless and colorless mustard gas frequently used after July, 1917. Detectable only by its sting, it gave its victims only seconds to protect themselves and caused severe, often fatal, burns to exposed skin and lungs. Owen also mentions other miseries of the “Great War,” such as the unusually heavy rainfalls that turned the fighting zone into a bog in which the men suffered crippling foot ailments and sometimes even drowned.
The poem also expresses “the pity of war,” the theme Owen also articulated in the short preface he drafted for the intended collection. English poetry, he explains, is “not yet fit to speak” of heroes, but speaking the truth of war may act as a warning to the next generation. Owen uses the word “pity” in a special sense, one that encompasses a profound fellow feeling for all those who suffer; ultimately, that includes everyone. Hence, his protest against war extends to become a protest against all inhumanity. The ability of Owen’s poems to transcend the particular circumstances of their creation was a quality some of his early critics, including the poet Yeats, failed to see. “Dulce et Decorum Est” accomplishes this as effectively as anything Owen wrote, for the focus of its protest is not the pain suffered by a few men but rather the transhistorical “Lie.” The horrible death of the gassed soldier exposes the fallacy behind the oft-repeated, high-sounding Latin epigram: The poem’s protest is against an abuse of language.
Owen drafted the poem in August, 1917, at the age of twenty-four, while he was convalescing at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. He finished it about one year later, perhaps shortly before his death. The event described in the poem is almost certainly based on actual experience, as Owen reported such “smothering” dreams to his doctor. Recovering from concussion, trench fever, and “shell shock” or “neurasthenia” (terms often used as euphemisms for exhaustion), Owen’s stay at Craiglockhart was crucial in his poetic development, in part because he became acquainted with the more experienced soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon and, even more important, because it gave him a chance to work steadily during a period when his sense of poetic purpose was most urgent.
Owen was deeply concerned about the technical problems involved in the expression of his passionate convictions. Some of his later poems use striking methods such as half rhyme, but in this poem, too, Owen’s technical mastery is impressive. The first stanza employs heavy, single-syllable rhymes throughout; to convey exhaustion, Owen breaks up the rhythm, which composes itself in the third line. After several comparatively regular lines, a dramatic shift occurs with the fragmentary syntax of the first lines of the stanza about the gas. The four repeating “um” sounds of those line in the words “fumbling,” “clumsy,” “someone,” “stumbling” produce interior rhymes that create a sudden, panicked sense of double time. After the ellipsis, an eerie, dreamlike calm sets in as the poet coolly, objectively describes the man drowning “as in a green sea.” The couplet literally rehearses the moment as do the dreams, and in place of a rhyme it repeats the falling cadence of “drowning” with extraordinary effect, as though poetry itself must stumble and fall at this juncture. The final stanza exploits the steady, relentless rhythm of iambic pentameter for the purpose of “accumulatio,” heaping up declarations in couplets that each describe more of what could be seen. “My friend” announces a last turn: a direct accusation against the time-honored, respectable, capitalized “Lie.” The extra foot in line 25 shatters the iambic pentameter and produces particularly heavy stresses on the two long syllables of “old Lie,” enhancing the resonance of the foreshortened half-line that ends the poem.
In a late revision, Owen substituted lines 23 and 24 (“Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud/ Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—”) for two lines that introduced a note of eroticism that might have distracted attention from Owen’s main purpose (“And think how, once, his head was like a bud,/ Fresh as a country rose, and keen, and young,—”) The new lines recall images from Dante’s Inferno (c. 1320), and their guttural sounds enhance the impression of outrage.
After a year of convalescence, Owen returned to the front in August, 1918. In October, he received the Military Cross, and on November 4, 1918, just one week before the Armistice, he was gunned down on the Sambre Canal. Owen published only five poems during his lifetime, and “Dulce et Decorum Est” was first published posthumously in Poems by Wilfred Owen (1920), the eleventh poem in a volume of only twenty-three. His reputation grew rapidly after the publication of Edmund Blunden’s 1931 edition of his poems, which included a lengthy memoir. Although the C. Day Lewis edition of Owen’s poems is now considered standard, “Dulce et Decorum Est” is often reprinted in versions that differ significantly. In particular, some editors follow Blunden in preferring a manuscript variant of line 8, “Of gas shells dropping softly behind.”