The old Lie

Dedicated to people of all nations who have died needlessly because of the old lie that it is honourable and fitting to die for one’s country.

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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped 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, 8 October 1917 – March, 1918

6 Comments on “The old Lie”

  1. B.g. –

    I can’t speak for what Greywulf intends by his post but it is not honourable and fitting to die for one’s country.

    It is honourable and fitting to SERVE one’s country.

    The idea that the very act of dying for one’s country is itself “good” is a ludicrous idea. It sent millions of people to their death in the WWI and it is the same logic of martyrdom that inspires suicide bombers.

    I think George Patton hit the nail on the head when he said

    “You don’t win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his.”


    Chris Tregenzas last blog post..Armistice Day: Remembering Real Heroes

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