Dulce et decorum est

Essay by katedaenHigh School, 10th gradeA+, July 2004

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"Dulce Et Decorum Est" is a poem by Wilfred Owen that challenges old conventions in its portrayal of the realities of war.

As a writer of some good, some bad, and mostly mediocre poetry, I have often wondered what it is that makes a great poem great. I found myself disillusioned and mystified by the whole business. I could never compare to Yeats, whose words I once spray-painted on a wall because I loved them so. Nor would I be a Shakespeare; a creator of works in a definitive form, the sonnet.

And there I was, stuck. I had no patience for formula and rigidity, as I saw it. I knew what expression was, and I would be damned if some academician (i.e. my esteemed colleague), would tell me my work was invalid because I did not follow formal rhythmic rules and proper meter. "Leave technicalities to the musicians", I cried.

Which showed just how much I knew about poetry.

Now I still believe that we need not be hampered by form. The talented poet writing opposite me once exposed me to the wonderful world of sestina. I have yet to compose a worthwhile example, but the challenge of creating in that strict of a format is rewarding. And very frustrating.

Which brings us to "Dulce Et Decorum Est", by Wilfred Owen. I cannot truly speak to the form and style Owen uses. I do not know. What I can speak to is what makes the poem work from a dramatic standpoint. What is so beautiful about this poem is its ability to move the reader. The poem is an example of writing graphically and from the gut, while adhering to a prevailing, or accepted form. Poetry does not have to be pretty, however some poets do not seem...