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Wilfred Owen. “Disabled” “Dulce et Decorum Est”. Wilfred Owen 1893-1918.

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wilfred owen

Wilfred Owen


“Dulce et Decorum Est”

wilfred owen 1893 1918
Wilfred Owen1893-1918

Wilfred Owen grew up in a very poor family in Birkenhead. He did not attend university, and had a job as an assistant to a country vicar. He work in the church led him to seriously doubt his beliefs, and after traveling through France in 1813, his doubts about religion gave him pause when he considered whether to enlist in the armed services. Eventually he chose to join up, and fought as an officer in the Battle of the Somme from January to May 1917. He was so shell shocked that he was send to recover in an Edinburgh hospital, where he met the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Under his influence, Owen began to write his own war poetry, inspired mostly by the horrific nightmares he suffered while in the hospital. He left the hospital in November 1917, fought bravely, was awarded the Military Cross, and his work as a poet was beginning to gain him great recognition. Sadly, however, he was killed in action one week before the end of the war.



  • What country is the young man from?
  • What limbs (if any) is he missing?
  • How old was he when he enlisted?


He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,

And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,

Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park

Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,

Voices of play and pleasure after day,

Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

* * *

About this time Town used to swing so gay

When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,

And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, -

In the old times, before he threw away his knees.

Now he will never feel again how slim

Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands;

All of them touch him like some queer disease.

* * *

There was an artist silly for his face,

For it was younger than his youth, last year.

Now, he is old; his back will never brace;

He's lost his colour very far from here,

Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,

And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race

And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

* * *

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,

After the matches, carried shoulder-high.

It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,

He thought he'd better join. - He wonders why.

Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts,

That's why; and may be, too, to please his Meg;

Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts

He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;

Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.

Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,

And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears

Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts

For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;

And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;

Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.

And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers. * * *

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.

Only a solemn man who brought him fruits

Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.

* * *

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,

And do what things the rules consider wise,

And take whatever pity they may dole.

To-night he noticed how the women's eyes

Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.

How cold and late it is! Why don't they come

And put him into bed? Why don't they come?



  • 1. Identify elements of FORM
  • Rhyme
  • Meter
  • Stanza Structure
  • Explicate (paraphrase each complete sentence- you don’t have to do every line by itself.)
  • 3. Identify the MOOD of each stanza
  • Try and identify the timeline of the poem- put the stanzas in chronological order.
  • 5. Identify at least 3 POETIC DEVICES
  • Come up with a theme statement
  • What is Owen’s purpose in writing this poem? What does he want to do? (Warn people, teach people, entertain people, criticize people?)


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.

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

1 DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country