It's the only one of those Obligatory School Poems that a) set me on my knees; b) inspired me to do some writing itself, and c) I can remember any sizeable part of. The saddest part is the so many wars have taken place since, yet I still salute Wilfred Owen.
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, 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 gurgling 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 (1893 -- 1918) died fighting for England in World War I, just one week before the armistice was signed and the war ended.