Dulce et Decorum est

by Robert Service

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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
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.

Dulce et Decorum est: The phrase "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is a Latin phrase from Horace, and translates literally something like "Sweet and proper it is for your country (fatherland) to die." The poem was originally intended to be addressed to an author who had written war poems for children.

"Dim through the misty panes . . ." should be understood by anyone who has worn a gas mask.

[British-born Canadian Poet, [1874 - 1958.]

Patahoek petroglyph

Mail to: Graybyrd

Return to Index

This is my work in progress of stories, poetry (mine and also some of Wilfred Owen and Robert Service), commentary, and personal recollections.