This isn’t a post about Downton Abbey. But it is a post about Wilfred Owen, and he seems to be popping up a lot lately because of Downton. Media Bistro recently published a “Downton Abbey Reading List” and The New York Times even did a piece about Downton and how publishers were using America’s interest in it to promote historical fiction and biographies of the First World War. Both mentioned Owen-Wilfred Owen-a British soldier and poet who wrote, with horrific imagery, about the horrors of war.
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face…
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs…
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
*Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from Horace’s Odes. Roughly translated: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” Wilfred Owen was killed in battle one week before the war ended. He was twenty-five years old.
You can see the original manuscript, and other works, at the University of Oxford’s Great War Digital Archive.