Saturday, March 3, 2012

Post #202 - Still Hell after All These Years

The following poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est" was written by Wilfred Owen, who died one week before the end of the First World War.
It is out-of-date, in that our technologies of war-making now make it possible for many of the combatants to avoid even seeing the carnage.
Some may jockey a console in the American southwest, while wreaking havoc in the border regions of Pakistan or Afghanistran. 
Others may watch while their plane and its missile lock on to a target and take it out.  Still others might launch a nuclear device from
under the surface of an ocean, never seeing the country they are hitting, much less the victims themselves.  Folks in Iran will never know
who hit them (though they will certainly be able to guess.)
Perhaps we have made a wrong turn somewhere...
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.*
*Latin for:  "It is sweet and grand to die for one's country."

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