Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dulce et Decorum Est...

...Pro Patria Mori.

A soldier killed in Afghanistan heard (sic) wrote a letter before his death saying there was ''no greater honour'' than to die for his country, mourners at his funeral were told.

The Roman phrase in the blog post title comes from the Roman poet Horace: It is glorious and honorable to die for one's country. If you click on the link, you'll see that there has long been a debate about these words and this sentiment, with many holding them to be literally true, and many others calling them "the old lie" and its adherents fools. It is the title of one of Wilfred Owen's most famous poems:


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.

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

Let's have a poll:

It Is Glorious And Honorable To Die For One's Country
Disagree free polls


Ronsonic said...

It Is Glorious And Honorable To Die For One's Country, but as noted by Patton, better to make the other son of a bitch die for his.

wally said...

Your poll doesn't allow for in-between beliefs. There are those of us who believe that sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But black-and-white arguments are the stock-in-trade of the devoted rightist, aren't they?;)

Bob said...

@wally: I knew you'd want a shades-of-grey nuanced answer, which is why I denied you one. I wasn't going to give a list of stipulations that would make the choice easier or more difficult; either you believe in the concept of the ultimate sacrifice, or you don't. Spock, dying at the end of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, put it wonderfully: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one.

wally said...

Moral guidance from a Hollywood screenwriter! I love it!