October 09, 2006

Sweet and fitting

As I mentioned in my previous post, parts of that essay always remind me of a poem by Wilfred Owen, part of it below. Poetry rarely does anything for me, but this one always shakes me.

Often called the greatest of the war poets, Owen died in action in France in 1918, towards the end of World War I. He was just 25.

Aside: For a thought-provoking examination of some of the themes that drove Owen's poetry (and much else), may I recommend Pat Barker's novel Regeneration, and the film based on the book.

***

Dulce et Decorum Est

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.
*

* It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.

3 comments:

camelpost said...

We are longing for your writeup on yoursilver jubilee reunion at your alma mater BITS Pilani Rajasthan

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ahh camelpost! Were you there too?

Well, I have been circulating some small vignettes about that reunion among us reunion-ers. Maybe I'll see if any of them can stand a non-reunion audience and put them up (possibly edited) here.

Unknown said...

This reminds of the song titled 'In The Army Now'.

See the lyrics at:

http://www.lyricsondemand.com/q/quostatuslyrics/inthearmynowlyrics.html