David Cameron’s Favourite Poem - ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’
Written by Tim Heydon
‘ Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country’
According to David Cameron, his favourite poem is ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by the first World War Poet, Wilfred Owen. It may be true, of course, but so grim is this condemnation of the horrors of modern warfare, that while one might appreciate its power, I doubt that it could be many people’s real favourite in the sense of something to be read over and over and remembered in quiet moments:-
‘Gas!Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . . Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 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.
No, real favourites tend to be other poems; those about more intimate things such as loves won or lost, reflections on mortality, the struggles of the human spirit, the beauty and lessons of nature, and so forth. A
Favourite for Political Purposes
It is I believe Cameron’s favourite only for political purposes. It is its anti - patriotic flavour which he wants to project. He wants us to share his attitude that one’s country, one which is the political, cultural and social expression of a people, that is, is not worth dying for.
It’s OK to die for an Idea, but not for your Ethnic Kin
So why, one might enquire, was Cameron so eager for military intervention in the Libyan civil war? His answer, I am sure, would be this war, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a ’progressive’ war; a war for ideas - ones that he approves of. They are not patriotic wars on behalf of a nation or ethnicity. So dying for them is all right then. It is not war that Cameron is against; it is what they are fought for.
Those who die in Tory-backed Wars might not agree
Of course, Cameron has not been personally engaged in those conflicts and those who have died in them including the dead Libyans, Taliban and (it is said) up to 100,000 Iraquis, might not agree with these ideas. But hey ho, what does that matter. It s progress, isn’t it?
Roman Patriotism, Courage and Fortitude
Personally I prefer the Ode of the Roman Poet Horace from which the title of Owen’s Poem is taken;-
‘To suffer hardness with good cheer, In sternest school of warfare bred, Our youth should learn; let steed and spear Make him one day the Parthian's dread; Cold skies, keen perils, brace his life. Methinks I see from rampired town Some battling tyrant's matron wife, Some maiden, look in terror down,— “Ah, my dear lord, untrain'd in war! O tempt not the infuriate mood Of that fell lion I see! from far He plunges through a tide of blood!“ Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori Death's darts e'en flying feet o'ertake, Nor spare a recreant chivalry, A back that cowers, or loins that quake’
To defend your People is an Expression of the highest human Virtue: Love
Why is it not ‘sweet and fitting’ to die on a manly way for one’s country, one’s ethnicity, ones own people, as Horace affirms? After all, this is what has given you life and endowed it with the benefits of its culture and traditions. On what basis do you reject its moral authority to ask you to defend it with that life if need be? To defend your family and your wider ethnic family, seems to me to be both natural and a laudable expression of the highest human virtue: human love. Human love is stronger than the thin intellectualism of Cameron and his like which appeals only to a comparative minority. Other than for such ‘intellectuals’ and dedicated contrarians, most people do love their own people and ways of life because human beings are genetically geared up to do so.
Manly, War-like Virtues are needed as well as the Feminine Virtues of Peace
Laudable too are the manly virtues that make a successful defence possible and which also go to make a robust and successful society. It is because our country has been radically feminised as an over reaction to the world wars that Britain has declined so very much since the Second World War
Not an Argument for Aggressive Warmongering
That is not to say that living for your country, and tolerantly letting others live for theirs, is not sweeter still than dying for it. As a humorous 19th Century toast out it:-
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae"
("It is sweet and right to die for the homeland, but it is sweeter to live for the homeland, and the sweetest to drink for it. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.").