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"dulce Et Decorum Est" or the Insanity of the New Age

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"Dulce et Decorum Est"

Or

The insanity of the new age.

By

Rumi Pavlova

ENG 102 16

In order to express thoughts and emotions, past generations used different artistic techniques and expressions. Some of the most popular methods were found in music, theatre, dance and poetry. One of the most emotional expressive arts that directly affected the human emotions was poetry which could easily be converted into music. The ancient philosophies reveal to us that poetry was a sophisticated game of opposite emotions, moods, ideas and colorful images. "Poem tells us about life, they shape experience" to which we can relate emotionally and viscerally (Biddle & Fulwiler, 1992, p. 421). Using more contemporary terms we could say that poetry is a rhythmical compression of thoughts that can be written in different style or length and can discuss all kinds of subjects. There is a wide variety of devices used in creating and evaluating poems, such as metaphor, diction, rhythm, rhyme, sounds, tone and atmosphere, etc.

This paper focuses on the tone and other poetical devices used in "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) who shows us trough his experience the insanity of war. The major conflict in the poem is the writer's horror of war and the poem's title "it is sweet and honorable to die for the fatherland" (Roberts & Jacobs, 1998, p. 740)

The poet is actually the speaker and narrator of the poem; a rare combination. In his poem, Owen draws a very realistic picture of the frontline, using such compelling images, words and tone of voice that we are dragged unwillingly into the horror of the war with him. In the first stanza, Owen briefly described the soldiers as being "like old beggars under sacks" (1 line) as they move back from the frontline and get trapped in a chlorine gas attack (Magill, 1992, p.611). The language used in this passage shows us the desolation, destruction and apathy of the war through words such as: "sludge," "trudge," "men marched asleep," "limped," "lime," "blind," "Drunk with fatigue" (lines 2-7). The poet uses metaphors like "blood-shod," "deaf even for the hoots of tired, outstripped Five-Nines," (line 7-8) as well as a literal, graphical expressions through which describes the scene as if we were there - we can see, feel and smell everything.

In the second stanza, Owen uses the expression "Gas! GAS!" (line 9) to create a tension followed by the "ecstasy of fumbling" (line 9), displaying their panic as the soldiers try to save their lives form the poisonous gas. The next scene creates another horrible image with a metaphor used to describe the soldier who was not fast enough to put on his "helmet" was "floundering like a man in fire or lime." With this dramatic imagery Owen achieves two things: on one hand, he recreates the sight and the feelings as if they were happening now to us and the other, he shows us that there is noting noble in dying in such a vile way (Magill, 1992, p.612). Another way in which the speaker undercuts the "noble statement of patriotism" is by further describing the death of the poisoned soldier with words containing similar sounds, such as "guttering," "choking," "drowning," "smothering," and "writhing". In "Anthem for Doomed Youth" Owen contrasts the way people die at home and how they are berried with some kind of acknowledgment ("passing-bells") and dignity, with the way soldiers, who are supposedly dying with honor are ""these who die as cattle" under the "rapid rattle" of "stuttering" rifles" (Roberts & Jacobs, 1998, p. 684). Thomas Hardy (1840p-1928) in his "The Man He Killed" also reflects on the horrors

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