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Dulce et Decorum Est

July 26, 2009
Roscoe, N.Y.

Harry Patch, believed to be the last British veteran of the First World War, only in recent years began speaking of his terrifying experiences on the front. He died yesterday at the age of 111. This is a poem written in 1917 by another young English soldier.

The Latin at the end is a quotation form Horace meaning "It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country."


Comments:

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— LnddMiles, Sun, 26 Jul 2009 09:10:39 -0400 (EDT)

I think Horace might have agreed with Wilfred Owen.

Horace wrote when war was more personal, when the defenders of the city fought for their families, friends and neighbors.

To have one's life thrown away because the generals cannot bear to admit, even to themselves, that yesterday's thouands died in vain...

— BobW, Sun, 26 Jul 2009 10:20:31 -0400 (EDT)

That said, I ask you to put your mind in a strange place.

Imagine you are a general, charged with defending France. It is your job to defeat the German army.

Since the time of Napoleon, infantry has been king of the battlefield. As recently as the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian war infantry has advanced successfully in the face of massed artillery. If they can do it again, they can win.

Imagine tens of thousands of your own troops have died at your orders in a fruitless attack on the German lines. Many of them were your friends, or the sons of your friends. Your own sons and grandsons may have been among them.

How many men could resist thinking that just one more try, pressed hard enough, would succeed? How many men, when convinced that it was futile, could have the courage to delay, and find another way to win? How did they live with themselves?

— BobW, Sun, 26 Jul 2009 10:39:01 -0400 (EDT)

"How did they live with themselves?"

Quite contentedly for the most part. Seriously, you give these guys way too much credit -- they tended to be thick and heartless, in it for their own glory. Most of them 'graced' us with their memoirs, not a lot of angst in them, other than the obligatory lips service that makes it sound like they had the hard part.

Robin Debreuil, Sun, 26 Jul 2009 13:26:45 -0400 (EDT)

"Seriously, you give these guys way too much credit"

I don't give them credit at all, except perhaps being all too human. In hindsight they obviously did their jobs badly, taking too long to decide that what they were doing wasn't working.

Think of them the next time you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result.

— BobW, Mon, 27 Jul 2009 10:03:21 -0400 (EDT)


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