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Write a description of the techniques Owen uses as a part of his voice in this poem. Explain how Owen’s personal feelings about the war come through in his voice. Be sure to talk about the literary terms you learned, especially imagery. Give specific examples. Your description should be at least three-hundred words long. The more examples you use, the better . Dulce at Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen

World War One was one of the most deadly and horrible wars in history, for it introduced new weapons into fighting strategies that were designed for older weaponry. As a result, many battles had casualty rates that have never been seen in any other war. After some battles, fields were covered entirely with dead and dying men. One of the most terrible of these weapons was poison gas shells. The most popular of these deadly gases were mustard, chlorine, and phosgene. The gas would react with the moisture in the victim’s lungs and destroy them. When a gas shell exploded, nearby troops had just seconds to put on their gas mask helmets. If a shell were dropped near troops sleeping in their trenches, the gas would settle into the trenches while they slept. The use of poison gas in war was outlawed by the Geneva Conventions after the war.

To rally their people to enlist in the army during these days, the countries involved appealed to their patriotism. In England, one popular way of doing this was to quote from an ode by the Roman poet Horace, who wrote “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” This means “it is sweet and fitting to die for your country.” The general population would have been familiar with that sentence.

Wilfred Owen was a young man who fought and died in that war. In this poem, he describes a gas attack he experienced. The gas used was probably chlorine or phosgene.

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.


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