Life and works
Wilfred Owen, born in 1893, was working as a teacher in France when he visited a hospital for the wounded and decided to return to England and enlist. The year 1917 was an important one: he was sent to France and saw his first action; in March he was injured and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh to recover from shell shock. It was there that he met Siegfried Sassoon, who was also a patient and already had a reputation as a poet. He read Owen’s poems, encouraged him to continue to write and introduced him to other literary figures. Owen just seven days before the armistice, he was killed in a German machine gun attack. His poems are painful in their accurate accounts of gas casualties, men who have gone mad and men who are clinically alive although their bodies have been destroyed. In June 1918 Owen was preparing Disabled and Other Poems for publication. At that time, he was writing the ‘Preface’ to the book, words which have now become essential in discussing his work and much of the poetry of World War I.
Dulce et Decorum Est
The poem is based on the poet’s experience of the horrors of war in the trenches and it is an attempt to communicate the ‘pity of War’ to future generations. The Latin title means ‘it is sweet and honourable’; it is a quotation from the Latin poet Horace.