Dulce Et Decorum Est Poetic Devices

A post war poem, ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ snatches at the opportunity to put an abrupt end to political problems worldwide, and to avoid any sort of future World Wars. Poet Wilfred Owen shapes this poem around war and its consequences; this is a poem of deep, twisted, emotive imagery portrayed through intelligent poetic devices.

The opening stanza draws the reader into the proverbial trench, ‘Bent double, like old beggars under sacks’ – an example of accessible imagery, used through a simile. The following lines continue to create the atmosphere of war: ‘Coughing like hags, we cursed through the sludge’, an unpleasant yet easily understandable occurrence. ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ practically marches the reader to war by emphasising soldiers’ hardships at war; travelling to a ‘distant rest’, and ‘men march asleep’, an effective metaphoric phrase, elaborated upon straight after, Owen states soldiers would be ‘drunk with fatigue’, and even after they’d ‘lost their boots’, they would ‘limp on, blood-shod, all blind’ on this seemingly eternal and insignificant march. Wilfred Owen will have captivated any reader by now to see the poem through to it’s end.

This poem is of a standard much higher than Owen’s other work, as well as many of its time. ‘An ecstasy of fumbling’, ‘misty panes and think green light’ and ‘a green sea’ are all first-rate adjectival phrases portraying further visions of war. ‘And floundering like a man in fire or lime’ paints a very descriptive and hideously detailed picture. This stanza’s flow is excellent and the rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter really keeping a solid rhythm going.

In a small break-off from the second stanza, we have stanza three, just two lines, acting as an anti climax, the predecessor to the final twelve line stanza; this couple of lines links with the previous stanza via its rhyme scheme, it ends with the emotive, meaningful line ‘He plunges at me, guttering, choking drowning’ – repetition of ‘drowning’ through rhyme, emphasis used to a great effect.

This draws us into the ultimate chapter of ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’. Stanza four is littered with intelligent and effective poetic devices in the way of similes and existential imagery. For instance ‘Like a devil’s sick of sin’, ‘obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud’, two lines, and three similes manage to highlight the repulsive nature of war. Yet more simple yet informative adjectives and verbs paint pictures in the readers mind – ‘Watch the white eyes writhing in his face’, sickening yet beautiful.

This is followed by ‘If you could see … with such high zest’ – a five line cut from the stanza illuminates the poem with brilliance. ‘The blood coming from the froth-corrupted lungs’, ‘obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud’ and ‘vile, incurable sores’ are three examples of emotive, negatively charged poetry. The poem then draws into its infamous close: ‘Dulce et decorum est … Pro patria mori’ – Latin, simply translated to “It’s sweet and fitting to die for your country”. This is after playing down war for four convincing and vibrant stanzas. He dubs the saying an ‘old lie’, a bold yet shockingly debatable declaration.

This ending rounds off the poem impeccably; ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ rhymes in alternating couplets and uses iambic pentameter in the right places, it’s a near-perfect formula not to be missed out on. The poem begins with an introduction to trench warfare and goes on stating the hardships of war and life as a soldier followed by a poetic patch of high-quality description, it proceeds to finish drowning you in a sea of soldiers’ sorrow.

In a moment of bias, I have to input my own opinion on this piece; it is one of the more interesting pieces of poetry, not too bogged-down, the rhythm throughout the second stanza in particular is excellent. The poetic devices incorporated are done so as effectively as I’ve ever read, all the similes and metaphors already mentioned in this appreciation fully validate my statement. At the same time the poem doesn’t overdo use of imagery and intelligent language, to the point it is so abstract it makes difficult, complicated reading. ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ provides good balance, making it accessible and easy to relate to. Overall it’s an impeccable, negatively charged protest against war, which leaves the timeless question: “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori” – Well?

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