Dulce Et Decorum Est

Tom stepped onto the Hoboken Pier weak-kneed and sick, the ten-day trip from LeHavre stretched to fourteen by the unrelenting Atlantic weather.

Two years before on this same jetty, his life had been full.

He’d had patriotism and the backing of his family, a home to return to, a just cause to fight and maybe die for.

Now he had lungs seared by mustard gas during the Argonne and three pieces of shrapnel in his left leg.

He’d picked up some swell souveniers, but left them in the barracks when he got word of his family.

All dead by the influenza.

Friday Fictioneers


Dulce et Decorum Est

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 gas-shells dropping softly 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.

-WIlfred Owen


Add Yours
  1. Nobbinmaug

    One doesn’t have to speak Klingon to get that even a glorious death isn’t sweet. Good job of capturing the horrors war can inflict in so few words.

    By the way, you transposed the C & L in your title.

  2. Dale

    It’s funny, I googled the poem before seeing you had included it.
    As if war itself is not bad enough; coming home to no family is beyond awful.
    Well written, josh

  3. granonine

    I read recently that more people died–between 20-40 million, from 1918-1919 from influenza than all those who were killed during WWI.

    I haven’t had a flu shot yet. Maybe I will.

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