Monday, 15 March 2010

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

So we Northern Oak types were in the peaks last weekend working on a music video for Bloodstock unsigned. I fully expect it to be damned embarassing but at least it means you will all be able to have a good laugh!

While having lunch in a pub, Chris told Rich that he had no decorum (which in all honesty our Northern Bloke doesn't!) and then commented on it being a very satisfying word. Well the word makes me think of this war poem which I have dug out.

Poems can have a number of purposes but some of the best are those that can paint a scene so vividly that you can see it clearly with your mind's eye.

Immediately Owen frames the scene for us by picking out all the little details; the state of the men, that they are missing shoes and the calibre of shells being used. The verbs are also chosen to dramatic effect; they 'curse' through the mud and the fatigue is so great and intoxicating that they are left 'drunk' on it.

The second stanza is the most graphic. As we see soldiers go through the motions of protecting themselves from gas, only to appreciate the horror as one man does not get his mask on in time. The first and only mention of colour is the green of the mask's visor and it consumes both the narrator's and our view of the scene. Forcing us into some terrifying otherworld as the soldier who plunges at him now and again in his nightmares. We wonder if we might see him in our own at night.

The actual language itself deserves a special mention, not for the imagery but the way it sounds. Say aloud to yourself

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud / Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

Feel the way your mouth contorts as you say the two lines. There is no pleasant way to say them, you are forced into exhaling harsh sounds which mirror the vulgar imagery of the poem.

It all combines to make us believe him completely, that the claim it is 'sweet and right to die for your country' is a lie.

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