The following poem was written in 1917 by a brilliant young army lieutenant while hospitalised for shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress disorder) in Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh.
It is probably the best known poem of the First World War.
It describes a gas attack.
Wilfred Owen, who had been sent to Craiglockhart after surviving numerous horrendous combat experiences, including being trapped in a trench under heavy fire for several days with the remains of a fellow officer.
Although he could have avoided being sent back to action, he insisted on returning to the front.
Wilfred Owen was killed in action on November 4th 1918, a week before the Armistice.
He was 25.
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 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.