Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori - Uses in Art and Literature

Uses in Art and Literature

  • Perhaps the most famous modern use of the phrase is as the title of a poem, "Dulce Et Decorum Est", by British poet Wilfred Owen during World War I. Owen's poem describes a gas attack during World War I and is one of his many anti-war poems that were not published until after the war ended. In the final lines of the poem, the Horatian phrase is described as "the old lie." It is believed that Owen intended to dedicate the poem ironically to Jessie Pope, a popular writer who glorified the war and recruited "laddies" who "longed to charge and shoot" in simplistically patriotic poems like "The Call."
  • "Died some, pro patria, non 'dulce' non 'et decor'..." from part IV of Ezra Pound's "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley", a damning indictment of World War I; "Daring as never before, wastage as never before."
  • In a school essay German playwright Bertolt Brecht referred to the phrase as "Zweckpropaganda" (cheap propaganda for a specific cause) and pointed out, that "It is sweeter and more fitting to live for one's country.".
  • The title of Damon Knight's 1955 short story "Dulcie and Decorum" is an ironic play on the first three words of the phrase; the story is about computers that induce humans to kill themselves.
  • The film Johnny Got His Gun ends with this saying, along with casualty statistics since World War I.
  • In the film 'All Quiet on the Western Front' a teacher quotes this early on while talking to his class.
  • In his book And No Birds Sang, chronicling his service in Italy with the Canadian army during the Second World War, Farley Mowat quotes Wilfred Owen's poem on the opening pages and addresses "the Old Lie" in the final section of the book.
  • Tim O'Brien quotes the line in the book If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.
  • René Goscinny, in his comic book Asterix and the Big Fight uses the phrase in a lighter note, when one of the Roman Legionaries is being punished by his superior.
  • The line is quoted at the end of the music video to the song "Empire" by Kasabian, which depicts the Charge of the Light Brigade.
  • In Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, the Tarleton brothers are buried under a tombstone which bears the phrase.
  • The last words attributed to the Israeli national hero Yosef Trumpeldor - "It is good to die for our country" (טוב למות בעד ארצנו) are considered to be derived from Horace's, and were a frequently used Zionist slogan in the earlier part of the Twentieth Century.
  • In Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel after the outbreak of WWI, when adolescent Eugene, encouraged by his teacher, Margaret Leonard, devours stories of wartime courage (R. Brooke's "If I Should die..." and R. Hanky's A Student in Arms", and fueled by these stories, composes his own, to the ever-present literary-referenced commentary by Wolfe.
  • The music group The Damned wrote a song "In Dulce Decorum" which was inspired by Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est,
  • Karl Marlantes' novel Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War features a mock-mass between Mellas and others, in which the line is satirically quoted

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