Wilfred Owen is considered one of the greatest poets of the First World War. He was killed in action one week before the Armistice, and his poems were mostly published posthumously. His graphic depictions of war’s horrors mark a change in attitude toward World War I and perhaps toward war in general — a turning away from the idea of warrior glory.
In his most famous poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, Owen tells of watching a man die of poisoned gas in the back of a wagon. The scene recurs vividly in his dreams and he concludes:
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…
…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 Latin is from the Roman poet Horace and means, “Sweet and fitting is it to die for your country.”