A commentary on one of the most famous war poems
‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ or, to give the phrase in full: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Latin for ‘it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country’ (patria is where we get our word ‘patriotic’ from). The phrase originated in the Roman poet Horace, but in ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) famously rejects this idea. For Owen, who had experienced the horrors of trench warfare and a gas attack, there was nothing sweet, and nothing fitting, about giving one’s life for one’s country. Focusing in particular on one moment in the First World War, when Owen and his platoon are attacked with poison gas, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is a studied analysis of suffering and perhaps the most famous anti-war poem ever written.
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, Read the rest of this entry
A commentary on Shakespeare’s 106th sonnet
‘When in the chronicle of wasted time’ is one of the more famous poems in Shakespeare’s cycle of 154 sonnets. Before we proceed to an analysis of the poem’s features, here’s a reminder of Sonnet 106.
When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights,
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme,
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their antique pen would have expressed
Even such a beauty as you master now.
So all their praises are but prophecies
Of this our time, all you prefiguring;
And for they looked but with divining eyes,
They had not skill enough your worth to sing: Read the rest of this entry
A close reading of Blake’s classic poem
‘The Clod and the Pebble’ is a William Blake poem that first appeared in his 1794 volume Songs of Experience, the companion-piece to his 1789 collection Songs of Innocence. The poem stages a conversation between a clod of clay and a pebble to make a point about the nature of love. Before we proceed to an analysis of ‘The Clod and the Pebble’, here’s a reminder of the poem.
The Clod and the Pebble
‘Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.’
So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet: Read the rest of this entry