‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Disabled’ Essay

Published: 2021-09-10 22:00:09
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Category: Poetry

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Both ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Disabled’ are poems seemingly intended to allow the reader to perceive the harsh realities of war without themselves becoming corrupted by the evils of warfare. Neither poem attempts to glorify the event of war in the twentieth century, yet both provide such disturbing insights into war that certain comments made in the poems seem to detract from the horrific nature of death and destruction, merely for something each opposing nation believes in.
‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is considerably shorter than ‘Disabled’, and so I feel that it endeavours to provide the reader with a wealth of vivid images intended to shock. Although not exactly action-packed, due to its length, more must happen in order to drive the message home- the message being that it is not right and proper to die for your country. ‘Disabled’, however, is longer, and can therefore rely on not having to include the shock tactics employed in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. This poem builds up the subtle differences between the soldier’s life before and after the war. It uses its extra length to slowly build up pity for the disabled soldier-there is a direct contrast and similarity here between the two poems. Both predominant subject matters fall foul of the rigours of war, yet in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ the subject dies, whilst in ‘Disabled’ the focus is placed on the effect that the soldier’s disability has had on his life, both psychologically as well as physically. ‘Disabled’ seems to draw out each expression in order to achieve maximum possible sympathy for the victim:
‘He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,’
This simple lengthening of words suffices to lengthen the period of time for which the reader feels sympathetic towards the crippled soldier. One interesting way in which both the poems are written is the reaction of both soldiers involved in the case of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ the reaction of both the gassed and protected soldier. In ‘Disabled’ the soldier offers almost a lackadaisical reasoning towards the loss of his legs, as if he expected it at some point during his time at the front line:
‘In the old times, before he threw away his knees’
The soldier in question adopts an extremely reflective stance on his disability, as if speaking from the voice of experience. The soldier in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ offers no clue as to length of time he has been fighting in the front line, but appears to be shocked and panicky towards the death of a comrade:
‘In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning’
The soldier here provides an insight into what his life was like in the trenches- he could close his eyes to avoid sickening visions, yet they return to haunt him in his sleep, when he cannot help but relive his nightmares-hence the reference to helpless sight-he cannot simply close his eyes in a dream.
Yet even if no reference is made to the period of time spent at the front, it is obvious that both poems use the uniqueness of experience to dissuade the reader from joining the war. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ uses imagery to suggest that the soldiers have experienced great atrocities:
‘Till on the haunting flares we turn our backs’
This suggests that during the period of time they have spent at the front, even a innocuous sending off of a flare haunts their every move. The very word ‘haunts’ suggests something of dead spirits present on the battlefield.
‘Disabled’ gives the impression of experience through the line:
‘Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits’
Both poems then use this experience to reveal the horror to which they have been subjected, but in different ways. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is set on the battlefield, and seeks to place you at the scene of the choking man in order for you to comprehend what this man was forced to experience for his country, whilst ‘Disabled’ contemplates on his life after his horrific injuries sustained whilst fighting for his country.
Yet that particular quotation also lends one to notice another point which both poems acknowledge- the incredibly young age at which young people voluntarily subscribed to the army. Indeed, both poems offer something of a hypothesis as to why these young men are signing up. ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ was first used by Horace- the full line … ‘Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori’, roughly translating as ‘how sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country’ is followed by a line also roughly translated as ‘death pursues the man who runs away’. In essence, it is offering each young man the more valiant death by dying for one’s own country rather than by any other way. Owen believes that many soldiers are only subscribed for want of ‘desperate glory’. In ‘Disabled’ the maimed recruit subscribed only to ‘please the giddy jilts’- this is hardly a reason worthy of the horrific injuries which have scarred the rest of his existence. Both reasons cited by the soldiers are egotistical- personal glory and Owen uses the attempt by the hierarchy of persuading boys of tender age to war by turning the title phrase around in the final stanza of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’:
‘The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.’
The inclusion of the word ‘old’ implies in my opinion that it is the age-old lies of the war Generals that Owen feels is corrupting tomorrow’s youth. He attempts to drag the aspects of war so seemingly appealing to the mass of Britain’s youth through the mud of the battlefield where so many of his comrades have already lost their lives. This derogatory vision of warfare is illustrated in both poems- one could say that both soldiers have been dehumanised as a result of their experiences upon the battlefield:
‘… before he threw away his knees’
This unperturbed approach to the horror of warfare is intended to shock the reader-how can anyone talk in such languid tones about such a disabling event?
Owen conveys dangerous messages, in order to show exactly what has become of the men whose boyish appeal for joining the army turned against them. ‘Dulce’ implies sweet, yet by the end of the poem the reader can see that warfare is anything but sweet. Irony is also used in ‘Disabled’- he who has joined up to impress the girls with his masculine kilted legs no longer possesses any legs, and because he joined whilst intoxicated, the control he didn’t not possess then over his limbs is permanent, rather than the temporary
Both poems employ similar and different techniques, yet in my opinion it is the differences that struck me the most. Both poems dissuaded me from the warfare, but by vastly different methods. The short, stark images presented to me in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ really puts the reader in the middle of the action, building up each vision with alarming clarity, until the final realisation of the true meaning of the title of the poem is revealed. ‘Disabled’s reflective rhyming verse seemed to reveal more about the personal and mental torture the average soldier was subjected to during his time at the front.

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