Mike Canoy

Recent CS Grad from WWU

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CSCI 491: Dulce et Decorum est

A blog for Senior Project 1 about sonnets and trenches

Enlist Now Rupert Brooke Charles Sorley Edward Thomas Isaac Rosenberg Wilfred Owen Pro Patria Mori

Pro patria mori

Friday, May 20, 2016

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibit at Tower of London commemorating every 888,246 British and Colonial military fatality with a ceramic red poppy. Andrew Davidson / CC BY 3.0

The past posts have covered a number of British poets who served in the Great War and their poetry. Some of their poetry had themes of nationalism and romanticism. Others explored the horrors of war and disenfranchisement with inherited values. Their poetry were documents of their experiences on the Western Front, published to citizens back home, and save for us today. Their poetry was useful in a number of ways.

These poems give a view into the trenches of the Great War, for history today or journalism then. Industrialization had changed the landscape of the world, and made the Great War a first of it’s kind. In a changing world without certainty, the horror of the war shocked people and left them without hope. With empty promises of glory and honor, people questioned the values handed down to them from previous generations.

Murdering Airplane (1920) by Max Ernst . Ernst was an early surrealist and veteran of the Great War. Wikipedia / Public Domain

Previously, we’ve mentioned the quote of Gertrude Stein popularized by Ernest Hemingway. “That is what you are. That’s what you all are … all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.” [1] This aimlessness and disbelief of the people informs the art following the war. From Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, “‘Listen Jake… don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you are not taking advantage of it?'” [2] And from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “Thirty — the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair.” [3] Not only are there themes of despair and pain, but there is also a questioning of traditions. Namely, a strict adherence to aesthetics. We see striking art movements creating the new modern art.

The despair and loss of faith in these poems did foreshadow modern art, but the poems inform more than art. Remembrance Day is a memorial of British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Great War. [4] Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom is November 11 in accordance with the signing of the armistice in 1918. The remembrance poppy used in commemoration on Remembrance Day is inspired from In Flanders Filed by John McCrae. [5] The poem has visuals of the poppy flowers in the French countryside. The title of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est references the line Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori from the lyric poem Odes by Roman poet Horace. [6] The line translates to It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country and know as the Old Lie. The concept of honor and glory in war is centuries old, and contemporary in modern nationalism. As war is still an important part of our world, remembering the costs and experiences of war is meaningful in our handling and attitudes of conflicts.

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.

The field poppy, Papaver rhoeas, the remembrance poppy is based on. Björn S... / CC BY-SA 2.0

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

† - supplementary examples [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]