Friday, October 30, 2015

War Poets 5: A reading of Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est"

 If you cannot see the video or it does not play on your device click here to see it on Youtube.

This is probably the most famous English poem from the First World War.  You can see why.  It is graphic and terrible.  I could not face putting together a video of images that matched the words so instead I put up images of war memorials - scanning the page you get from Google images if you search for "first world war memorials."

It is hard to know how we should remember wars and those who fought in them.  Everything seems wrong.  Most of the memorials re-echo the words "Dulce et decorum est pro patria more" (It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.)  Yet, in Europe at any rate, Owen and his fellow writers and historians have destroyed the "old lie", few of the young think of war as glorious.  But perhaps somehow they have founded a new lie that war is uniformly horrific and the dead have been led to the slaughter like cattle.  If the old lie were true war would be uniformly worthwhile and glorious.  But if the new lie were true wars would have ended long ago. War, it is plain to see, goes on and on and and on.

I've been thinking this as I prepared three of my father's World War One books for publication as e-books. He fought in the same battles as the war poets and thought hard about the war. Strangely after recovering from his third wound he was sent back to France on the first day after the armistice in November 1918.  All psyched up to fight again he felt almost disappointed that the war had ended.
You can read excerpts from my father's books at at

My father talks in his books about learning to capture the purposefulness and unity you find in war and using it in peace.  I hope that the publication of my father's books may, in a small way, help to make this possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment