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Remembered Today:

Dulce et Decorum or The Old Lie ?


Clio
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Judging from some of the comments posted on the BBC 'Have Your Say' forum today, the revisionist argument has not made too many converts. More poignantly, it is clear that Armistice Day is not held in respect by all. Very sad.

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To change the subject slightly, but only very slightly; many moons ago I worked in Soho Square, and in an age when one could feed the parking meters all day with 5 or 10p coins, I drove home down Whitehall and past the Cenotaph every evening.

I could never look at it without being irritated by the inscription, "The Glorious Dead".

Like all the chums, and many others besides, my sense of reverence, gratitude, and awe for this lost generation has been with me since I was a child.

Among the many lessons taught us by the Great War; one is surely best summed up by Owen's Dulce et Decorum est. Yet to take his poem a little further; it is not just the act of dying that is inglorious, but also the dead. Hanging on the old barbed wire, rotting in no man's land, or blown into little pieces, there was nothing glorious about them either... they are in fact just 'dead'.

Forgive me if I have offended anyone with this post, but I always thought the inscription should have read simply, "To the Dead". I confess I am not religious, not that there is any overt religious connotation in "The Glorious Dead"; yet to me it always seemed highly inappropriate.

I'd be most interested to know if anyone else ever shared my thoughts on this subject, or whether I'm missing something that is apparently obvious to everyone else.

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The words were chosen by Rudyard Kipling and are perhaps best read in the context of the time and his own loss.

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There is another aspect of the inscriptions on so many memorials that makes me uncomfortable : the words " gave their lives". Here, again, I am anxious not to offend...but did the victims "give" their lives, or was it more a case of having their lives torn from them ?

Phil

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There were innumerable examples of men who were prepared to put their lives on the line, knowing that death might come.

Robert

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I think that anyone who reads enough memoirs will know that the soldiers reactions to what they were involved in were many and varied. I think "In Flanders Fields" summarises the thoughts of many and please note the last verse:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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FWIW I reckon Kipling's words are more abstract and refer to the death itself as being glorious not the manner of it.

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To change the subject slightly, but only very slightly; many moons ago I worked in Soho Square, and in an age when one could feed the parking meters all day with 5 or 10p coins, I drove home down Whitehall and past the Cenotaph every evening.

I could never look at it without being irritated by the inscription, "The Glorious Dead".

Like all the chums, and many others besides, my sense of reverence, gratitude, and awe for this lost generation has been with me since I was a child.

Among the many lessons taught us by the Great War; one is surely best summed up by Owen's Dulce et Decorum est. Yet to take his poem a little further; it is not just the act of dying that is inglorious, but also the dead. Hanging on the old barbed wire, rotting in no man's land, or blown into little pieces, there was nothing glorious about them either... they are in fact just 'dead'.

Forgive me if I have offended anyone with this post, but I always thought the inscription should have read simply, "To the Dead". I confess I am not religious, not that there is any overt religious connotation in "The Glorious Dead"; yet to me it always seemed highly inappropriate.

I'd be most interested to know if anyone else ever shared my thoughts on this subject, or whether I'm missing something that is apparently obvious to everyone else.

I think that you are missing something, Clutterbuck - missing the point that Owen's work, including Dulce et Decorum est, was not representative of the thoughts of the vast majority who fought in the war.

There is no doubt that Owen's poetry has great literary merit and did enjoy an initial popularity when first published, but this popularity was well-constrained when compared to later, modern levels. This later rise in popularity has its roots in the 1960s, when work such as Owen's, Sassoon's etc. was seized upon by the peace movements, many with anti-capitalist sympathies, to further their "anti-war" message. Of course, their message was more to do with politics (though well hidden) than universal peace. For example, WW2 was never used as an anti-war war by many of these so-called peace-movements simply because it could be clearly seen as a good-versus-evil conflict, and one in which the Soviet Union could be shown to be on the side of good; so WW1, with its not so clear good-v-evil roots and its rather messy outcome, was "chosen" as the main contender for highlighting the "lions led by donkeys" message; chosen to "prove" that the innocent working masses were manipulated into fighting a dreadful war by the old ruling classes, and the poetry of Owen and Sassoon, along with the work of one or two other "selected" poets, admirably met this highly selective criteria.

The problem being, of course, is that certain paradoxes arose in their arguments i.e. 1) To show that all war is bad then they had to show that WW2 was just that - very difficult to do, so it was either ignored completely or WW1 was blamed - either way, none of the peace-movements ever came up with any conclusive argument that WW2 should never have been fought (thus, in my opinion, destroying their message that all war is bad). 2) The work of Owen etc. though of great literary merit was not representative of the vast majority who fought; just a cursory glance at much of the other poetry of the war, and other items of "literature", will show this to be so. 3) Owen and Sassoon themselves create a paradox; given the sentiment in their work, why did both men not just volunteer to fight but actually return to the fray and prove themselves more than capable soldiers?

Does this not show us that the glory referred to in "The Glorious Dead" is not about the dying per se, much of which was undoubtedly inglorious, but very much to do with the reasons why those men, including Owen and Sassoon, put themselves in harm's way in the first place, and, perhaps more importantly, continued to fight even after realising the full horror of total-war? I would suggest that the Glory was not in the dying but in the doing, and that those men and women of that time realised this, and to simply see the horror of WW1 alone, with its modern-view shallowness, when deciphering the meaning of "The Glorious Dead" is to do those men it refers to an injustice.

Cheers-salesie.

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There is no doubt that Owen's poetry has great literary merit and did enjoy an initial popularity when first published, but this popularity was well-constrained when compared to later, modern levels. This later rise in popularity has its roots in the 1960s, when work such as Owen's, Sassoon's etc. was seized upon by the peace movements, many with anti-capitalist sympathies, to further their "anti-war" message. Of course, their message was more to do with politics (though well hidden) than universal peace. For example, WW2 was never used as an anti-war war by many of these so-called peace-movements simply because it could be clearly seen as a good-versus-evil conflict, and one in which the Soviet Union could be shown to be on the side of good; so WW1, with its not so clear good-v-evil roots and its rather messy outcome, was "chosen" as the main contender for highlighting the "lions led by donkeys" message; chosen to "prove" that the innocent working masses were manipulated into fighting a dreadful war by the old ruling classes, and the poetry of Owen and Sassoon, along with the work of one or two other "selected" poets, admirably met this highly selective criteria.

Very simplistic stuff on the increased interest in the war poets in the 1960s. Nothing here on....

1. Interest in the Great War generated by the 50th anniversary in 1964

2. Influence of the BBC 'The Great War'

3. Academic interest in Owen following the Collected Letters of 1967

4. Benjamin Brittain using Owen's work in his War Requiem in 1961

5. The wider context of everyone living in a very unstable world - the shadow of the bomb, Cuba, the Cold War, Berlin Wall, Vietnam, Six Day War etc etc

leading to an examination of the consequence of any resort to force. The above makes it sound like it was CND sponsored.

6. English Literature teachers and examination boards appreciating that the war poetry was powerful poetry in its own right and worthy of study in secondary schools.

7. Publication of war poetry anthologies widely-based e.g. Up the Line to Death 1965

8. Republication of many of the earlier classical writing about the war

I do not recall any peace movement of this period having a specifically anti-capitalist agenda e.g. CND. This stuff also implicitly smears peace movements as being some kind of tool of the Soviets. Obviously there was some Communist involvement but CND, for example, was a very broad church in terms of support.

Many people used Owen, Sassoon etc at the level of yes this is the reality this is what war really does to human beings. Others used them for their own very varying purposes. For pacifists this was a bit of an own goal as neither of them were although Sassoon was after the war. And if you were an anti-capitalist peacenik Sassoon's social background was hardly something to admire.

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There were innumerable examples of men who were prepared to put their lives on the line, knowing that death might come.

Robert

Yes, of course....who can forget the story of the man falling on the grenade ?

In my parish church the inscription on the memorial tells of men "counting not their lives dear unto themselves".

There was heroism, selflessness : the point I want to stress is that they loved life, too.

Phil

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Very simplistic stuff on the increased interest in the war poets in the 1960s. Nothing here on....

1. Interest in the Great War generated by the 50th anniversary in 1964

2. Influence of the BBC 'The Great War'

3. Academic interest in Owen following the Collected Letters of 1967

4. Benjamin Brittain using Owen's work in his War Requiem in 1961

5. The wider context of everyone living in a very unstable world - the shadow of the bomb, Cuba, the Cold War, Berlin Wall, Vietnam, Six Day War etc etc

leading to an examination of the consequence of any resort to force. The above makes it sound like it was CND sponsored.

6. English Literature teachers and examination boards appreciating that the war poetry was powerful poetry in its own right and worthy of study in secondary schools.

7. Publication of war poetry anthologies widely-based e.g. Up the Line to Death 1965

8. Republication of many of the earlier classical writing about the war

I do not recall any peace movement of this period having a specifically anti-capitalist agenda e.g. CND. This stuff also implicitly smears peace movements as being some kind of tool of the Soviets. Obviously there was some Communist involvement but CND, for example, was a very broad church in terms of support.

Many people used Owen, Sassoon etc at the level of yes this is the reality this is what war really does to human beings. Others used them for their own very varying purposes. For pacifists this was a bit of an own goal as neither of them were although Sassoon was after the war. And if you were an anti-capitalist peacenik Sassoon's social background was hardly something to admire.[/b]

Simplistic because I was summarising not writing a definitive essay, Alan.

That said, the more I read your reply the more I feel I should thank you for confirming the main point of my earlier post - that the rise in popularity in the work of Owen and Sassoon stems from the 1960s. And the social background of any poet is irrelevent when the message in his work admirably suits the "cause". I would also add that the political connotations of my simplistic points cannot be as readily dismissed as you would appear to wish. Especially when considering the fact that the popular view arising in the 1960s towards WW1, and still prevailing today, particularly in education thanks to the almost exclusive use of Owen's and Sassoon's work, was clearly at odds with the views of the vast majority who actually fought the war - both poets have been used quite successfully, despite the paradox their use creates, to represent the "Lions led by Donkeys" school of thought.

Cheers-salesie.

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As always an interesting post, Salesie; though I take issue with your first line. Whatever the politically popular point of view may have been amongst the soldiers with regard to King and Country or the war's legitimacy; I'd bet money that the actual dying part, as expressed here by Owen, would have had their almost total endorsement.

If I may be allowed a comment on the works of Owen & Sassoon being exploited by the leftie commie loving peaceniks of the 60's, I think I would generally agree with you rather than Alan. For the past 20 years the left has been keen to distance itself from the evils of communism, but previously they were deeply involved in CND and other peace movements, to the point of actually having their activites financed by the USSR. Yet Alan makes some very telling points, and my own memory of starting secondary school in 1966 was that Graves, Owen, Sassoon and Blunden were already high on the reading list, and judging by the state of the books had been so for some years. Therefore, I don't see how the increasing popularity or resurgence of these writters can be attributed to the political climate of the times.

Finally, I come to your last paragraph claiming it was the deeds that were glorious, rather than the dead. Clearly this is an interpretation one cannot discount out of hand. But if you are right, and seeing as the Cenotaph is a monument to the dead, and quite properly so; should the inscription not be worded so as to differentiate the glorious deeds of the dead from the glorious deeds of those who survived?

I'm sorry, I think the wording is ill thought out and sloppy, Kipling or not. One might also claim it sends out a 'wrong message' to succeeding generations.

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As always an interesting post, Salesie; though I take issue with your first line. Whatever the politically popular point of view may have been amongst the soldiers with regard to King and Country or the war's legitimacy; I'd bet money that the actual dying part, as expressed here by Owen, would have had their almost total endorsement.

If I may be allowed a comment on the works of Owen & Sassoon being exploited by the leftie commie loving peaceniks of the 60's, I think I would generally agree with you rather than Alan. For the past 20 years the left has been keen to distance itself from the evils of communism, but previously they were deeply involved in CND and other peace movements, to the point of actually having their activites financed by the USSR. Yet Alan makes some very telling points, and my own memory of starting secondary school in 1966 was that Graves, Owen, Sassoon and Blunden were already high on the reading list, and judging by the state of the books had been so for some years. Therefore, I don't see how the increasing popularity or resurgence of these writters can be attributed to the political climate of the times.

Finally, I come to your last paragraph claiming it was the deeds that were glorious, rather than the dead. Clearly this is an interpretation one cannot discount out of hand. But if you are right, and seeing as the Cenotaph is a monument to the dead, and quite properly so; should the inscription not be worded so as to differentiate the glorious deeds of the dead from the glorious deeds of those who survived?

I'm sorry, I think the wording is ill thought out and sloppy, Kipling or not. One might also claim it sends out a 'wrong message' to succeeding generations.

You make some valid and relevant points, Clutterbuck.

I agree that Owen's vivid description of the suffering of the "victim" in Dulce et Decorum est would have been recognised by almost everyone who fought (and not just suffering stemming from gas). But I'm certain that endorsement of the poem's "message" would not have been so readily forthcoming i.e. WW1 produced a massive amount of poetry, and, whether good or bad, the vast majority of "front-line" poets did not convey the same message as Owen and Sassoon. In other words, the evidence for Owen and Sassoon not being representative of the thoughts of the vast majority who fought is there for all to see; the words, and thus the thoughts, of the vast majority are there, and just need to be found and read with a critically honest mind to see the difference. Also, if the message contained in Owen's and Sassoon's work represented the majority opinion then this is paradoxical i.e. why then was there was no mass desertion, no sustained and extensive mutiny in the BEF? These men, many of them poets and writers along with Owen and Sassoon, returned to the trenches and went into action time and time again.

And, it has to be said that Owen and Sassoon's poetry was never "selected" by the so-called peace-movements for its high quality descriptive value but for its "political message", its high literary value being an added bonus. For example, what is the most memorable factor about Dickens' Oliver Twist - its high quality descriptions of people and places or its overall social commentary on the mid-Victorian era? In my opinion, "message" is far more important than descriptive genius.

I started secondary school some three years before you did (1963) and my memories are different to yours; no War Poetry at all in my school. That said, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the works of the poets you mentioned had been around for a while in your school, they did enjoy a certain, but not mass, popularity in the post-WW1 years - but the rapid increase in popularity of a certain kind of War Poetry with a certain message does stem from the 1960s when the "Lions led by Donkeys" school also enjoyed a massive surge in its ability to infiltrate the popular mindset.

As for "The Glorious Dead" being somehow a disservice to those who fought and survived? I disagree - in my opinion, this shows a lack of understanding on your part of the feelings of those who did fight and survive. The evidence tells us that the overwhelming feeling of the "survivors" was one of guilt (as an ex-regular, this is something I have personally experienced, though in no-way as great as WW1 veterans) - a soldier who fights and survives, though grateful for his good fortune, feels unworthy when compared to his fallen comrades; to a survivor, his dead mates truly deserve the accolade glorious not him.

Finally, I see that you mention "message" when expressing your thoughts about using the inscription "The Glorious Dead" - I assume you mean it sends a message that glorifies war? If so, perhaps this is your main concern? I would answer that by saying, if just seeing the horrors of WW1, and using a narrow range of poetry to represent the thoughts of those who fought, then war would certainly be viewed as anything but glorious, but that, in my opinion, would be an extremely narrow and shallow view - after all, dying has never been glorious, whether in battle or not, but sometimes we have to fight in order to protect the values we hold most dear, and I think it is pretty clear that much of what we hold most dear today would have been stripped from us if the people of our nation had not been prepared to make sacrifices when faced with clear and present danger in the past. As I said earlier, the glory is not in the dying itself but in the doing and the dying, and that is why our war-dead are indeed Glorious.

Cheers-salesie.

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This is taken from Owen's intended preface to his collection of poems that he hoped to publish in 1919:

'Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.'

This is the only political message espoused by Owen. I'd happily stand corrected but I see no critique of military methods or strategy, or indeed of the aims of the war within his poetry. 'Dulce et decorum est' is not a critique of the war but of war and this marks him as very different to Sassoon.

When I read Owen's poetry, I do not see evidence for or against the lions/donkeys or revisionist debate, instead I read his personal conception of the truth of the war, of men exposed to fear, suffering and death. Now, there may not be much positive in all this, not much of the lighter moments of war, the laughter or camaraderie and this does, rightly, lead to criticism of the extent to which he represents Tommy Atkins but of course, he was never a Tommy Atkins.

My inkling is that he may have considered the 'glorious dead' an appropriate tribute but certainly not in a grand heroic or political sense but instead in respect of the personal dignity and individual daily heroism and fortitude which he witnessed among those he served and died; those he sought to represent in his work.

'My Subject is War and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.'

We all understand Owen's intention and as veterans of World War Two would tell my grandfather when he was in the Parachute Regiment, war is something that he would never wish to see. Maybe not all would agree but Owen's work is about the pity and not about the politics, remembrance would have meant much to him. Owen's work has been ill-used (not, I would add, on this thread) and should be returned to the context of the man and the time in which he wrote.

A super thread,

Stephen Garnett

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Isn't the "Glorious Dead" not so much glorifying death or even what brought about the death, but a religious affirmation that would have comforted the bereaved (who in the 1920s probably knew their bible better that we do)?

27Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

28And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

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Isn't the "Glorious Dead" not so much glorifying death or even what brought about the death, but a religious affirmation that would have comforted the bereaved (who in the 1920s probably knew their bible better that we do)?

An interesting point, David - and one, being an atheist, I never even considered. My neglect in not considering religious undertones in "The Glorious Dead" is pretty remiss of me, given the fact that religion is frequently mentioned and/or used for imagery in much of the poetry of WW1. Its influence permeating all types and styles of Great War Poetry; used by many to provide convenient symbols of suffering and sacrifice, by others to place the war in a historical context, and used by some as a battering ram, to hurl conventional Sunday-morning Anglicanism at the bestialities of the front.

In our modern, mostly secular, world we tend to forget that religion was more relevant to many back then - I'm still fairly happy with my definition of "The Glorious Dead" but you have definitely given me something to ponder about the historical relevance of my own thoughts.

Cheers-salesie.

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This is taken from Owen's intended preface to his collection of poems that he hoped to publish in 1919:

'Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.'

This is the only political message espoused by Owen. I'd happily stand corrected but I see no critique of military methods or strategy, or indeed of the aims of the war within his poetry. 'Dulce et decorum est' is not a critique of the war but of war and this marks him as very different to Sassoon.

When I read Owen's poetry, I do not see evidence for or against the lions/donkeys or revisionist debate, instead I read his personal conception of the truth of the war, of men exposed to fear, suffering and death. Now, there may not be much positive in all this, not much of the lighter moments of war, the laughter or camaraderie and this does, rightly, lead to criticism of the extent to which he represents Tommy Atkins but of course, he was never a Tommy Atkins.

My inkling is that he may have considered the 'glorious dead' an appropriate tribute but certainly not in a grand heroic or political sense but instead in respect of the personal dignity and individual daily heroism and fortitude which he witnessed among those he served and died; those he sought to represent in his work.

'My Subject is War and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.'

We all understand Owen's intention and as veterans of World War Two would tell my grandfather when he was in the Parachute Regiment, war is something that he would never wish to see. Maybe not all would agree but Owen's work is about the pity and not about the politics, remembrance would have meant much to him. Owen's work has been ill-used (not, I would add, on this thread) and should be returned to the context of the man and the time in which he wrote.

A super thread,

Stephen Garnett

Your point about the "non-political content" in the work of Owen when compared to that of Sassoon is well made, Stephen, and one which I agree with. It is especially relevant when we consider Sassoon's influence on Owen when both convalesced at Craiglockhart - it seems that Owen, though willingly allowing Sassoon to mentor him, maintained an intellectual independence until his untimely death.

You also seem to acknowledge, when saying Owen's work has been ill-used, that his work has been politicised by those with their own agenda over the past four decades or so (an agenda different to Owen's and one of the paradoxes I alluded to in my first post in this thread).

Cheers-salesie.

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"....sed dulcius pro patria vivere...."

Those words - which translate loosely as " but it is sweeter to live for one's country" - follow in Horace's ode, but are not mentioned so often as the famous prequel.

It's interesting to speculate on how the addition of those words might have been received if they had been inscribed on some of the war memorials.

Phil

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"....sed dulcius pro patria vivere...."

Those words - which translate loosely as " but it is sweeter to live for one's country" - follow in Horace's ode, but are not mentioned so often as the famous prequel.

It's interesting to speculate on how the addition of those words might have been received if they had been inscribed on some of the war memorials.

Phil

More interesting, Phil, to show the full quote from the 2,000 year-old poetry of Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace to his mates) - "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae." Translated as: It is sweet and right to die for the homeland, but it is sweeter to live for the homeland, and the sweetest to drink for it. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.

Horace would seem to have been a conscientious objector, on the grounds of his faith in alcohol - or a hedonistic Roman pacifist with a satirical bent? Makes you wonder if Owen had been aware of the full quotation, or had decided from personal experience that the much used first part was an old lie?

Cheers-salesie.

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Blimey, salesie, it makes me wander whether the more classically educated soldiers in the ranks - and there must have been some - appreciated the irony of those lines when they took their rum ration before the whistle blew !

Phil

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Blimey, salesie, it makes me wander whether the more classically educated soldiers in the ranks - and there must have been some - appreciated the irony of those lines when they took their rum ration before the whistle blew !

Phil

The irony in Horace's words is there for all to see, Phil - but I have to confess to being a little naughty, in that I haven't given the full picture. There are, in fact, two relevant quotes in Horace's works - the second being:

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:

mors et fugacem persequitur virum

nec parcit inbellis iuventae

poplitibus timidove tergo.

Translated as:

How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country:

Death pursues the man who flees,

Spares not the hamstrings or cowardly backs

Of battle-shy youths.

This second quote is almost certainly, in my opinion, the one that Owen refers to as the "Old Lie". This second quote had been used extensively prior to WW1 to extol the virtues of empire building, and by some pro-war writers in the early days of the war. Indeed, in his first notes on his famous poem, Owen dedicated it to Jesse Pope, whom he regarded as being particularly "guilty" of this "offence". However such dedications never accompanied his poem into print.

The apparent confusion around Horace's seemingly paradoxical quotations could stem from his own self-interest. As a young man Horace was no pacifist, he fought as a staff-officer on the staff of Brutus during the civil-war that followed Caesar’s assassination. Unfortunately for Horace this was the losing side and he returned to Rome to find all his land confiscated and himself in dire financial/social straits. He then wrote two books of Satires, in which he admitted to throwing away his arms and legging-it, as fast as he could, from the battlefield. Funnily enough, his Satires saw his fortunes reversed - he became a celebrity and a firm favourite of Emperor Augustus (Octavius) the victor of the civil-war. And, his odes were written after re-capturing his standing in society.

I would suggest, therefore (and it is only a suggestion) that the first quote I gave, with its clear satirical context, came from his Satires, and the second quote came from his Odes, when he was "on-message" and not wanting to jeopardise his newly regained wealth and status. If so, Horace could be a prime example of how literature, even by the same author in his own self-interest, can be a powerful tool when manipulated to suit even diametrically opposed causes.

Owen, of course, never survived his war and we will never know if his intellectual independence would have continued long enough to thwart those who, in Stephen’s words, have ill-used his work in following their own agenda. Owen may have wanted to write solely about the pity of war, but "the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew."

Cheers-salesie.

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That's a real tour de force, salesie, thank you !

You started secondary school in 1963. So did I. In 1969, I took Latin O Level, and remember Catullus, and Livy, and Lucretius, but not Horace. I also studied General Classics, and shall never forget Thucidydes's Pelopponesian War, which is fantastic history and stands as a monumnet to how a historian should approach his craft. Mind you, I have a horrible feeling that I've mispelt both the author and the title of his work !

It was good to be sixteen in 1969 !

Phil

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That's a real tour de force, salesie, thank you !

You started secondary school in 1963. So did I. In 1969, I took Latin O Level, and remember Catullus, and Livy, and Lucretius, but not Horace. I also studied General Classics, and shall never forget Thucidydes's Pelopponesian War, which is fantastic history and stands as a monumnet to how a historian should approach his craft. Mind you, I have a horrible feeling that I've mispelt both the author and the title of his work !

It was good to be sixteen in 1969 !

Phil

I was eighteen in 1969, Phil, and been a soldier for two and a half years by then (albeit an apprentice at an army college) - never came anywhere near Latin nor the classics at school (though I did have a schoolmate called Horace). Back then, our secondary school focused on producing "cannon-fodder" for the local steelworks and coal-mines and I was off into the army (the saviour of many a young man) as soon as I could. So, I'm afraid, I can't help with the spelling of Thuciwhatshisname or the Pelowhatsit war, but I can say that what's always struck me is how similar, in human terms, the ancients were to us - Horace's satire about dying, drinking and country could well have been written by a modern mind and be just as relevant to today’s society.

Here's a poem of my own to that end (sorry it's not to the level of Horace or Owen, but hopefully it will make a point):

Same Difference?

Tick-tock, tick-tock,

Time marches on says the clock!

Onwards, forwards, into our future,

Content in knowing progress is our suitor.

But when looking back at our forefathers’ stance,

Have we, in fact, made any advance?

Healthier, richer, with all the mod cons;

No wonder we think we’re the chosen ones.

Though when peering at their ancient game,

Didn’t they think exactly the same?

We shout insane; they argued, they fought;

As if our lives aren’t equally fraught!

We fight, we argue, agree about little,

Could it just be our world is as brittle?

Tick-tock, tick-tock,

Simply marking time says the clock?

© John Sales 2001.

Cheers-salesie.

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I started secondary school some three years before you did (1963) Cheers-salesie.

Sorry,salesie, I must have misunderstood you.

Phil

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