The poem, "Dulce Et Decorum Est," is a piece which is made meaningful by Owen's style and technique. Through his masterful use of various literary and rhetorical devices, Owen is able to make a deliberate attempt at destroying the popular misconceptions that dying for one's own country is a noble or rewarding act. Through his poetry, he is not only able to convey to the audience his own disillusionment about the perils of war, but simultaneously disillusions his audience through stark imagery, structure, allusion, and metaphor.
The significance of the poem's title is paramount to understanding Owen's intent. The title is ironic, a Latin mantra used during the war to tempt soldiers into battle, roughly translated into 'It is noble to die for one's country.' Ideally, it appealed to a man's sense of duty and challenged allegiance to one's country, in due time persuading hundreds of men to enlist. In utilizing this allusion, Owen mocks the concept of the noble or heroic death. During the poem, Owen ultimately renders the notion of patriotism injurious and detrimental to man. This was intended to shock civilians at home, who were convicted that war was in fact noble and glorious. This is how it was seen, prior to the rise to televised media, and this poem works at destroying that romanticized image of war.
The poem consists of four unequal stanzas. The first is in rhyming quatrain. However, as the poem progresses from the beginning to the end, both structure and rhyme slack and loosen. To the audience, this decline in structure and rhyme feels like a slow loss of one's grip on life.
At the beginning of the poem, the rhythm and rhyme work together to create a sort of military cadence:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,á
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,á
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backsá
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.á
Men marched asleep. Man...