April 04, 2008

Veronika Walker


Professor LaBelle

4 April 2008

An Explication and Discussion on Wildred Owen’s Masterpiece:

Dulce et Decorum Est

There are rules that every poet keeps in mind: the use of alliteration, cacophony, assonance and consonance, rhythm, the list continues. Fiction writers, though they have more leeway, also have rules they must structure their work around, like point of view, setting, diction, and tone. Though “rules” often seem constrictive, the greatest poets and authors know how to bend these rules to their greatest advantage, seamlessly drawing their readers into their narrative without actually pointing to the rules followed. Anyone who can do so as beautifully as Wilfred Owen is a literary genius.

Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est is more than a simple poem. It is an entire story, filled with conflict, drama, emotion, and theme. By blending the worlds of poetry and story writing, Owen has created a timeless piece that demonstrates how rules – though perhaps a bit daunting – can be used quite seamlessly to present beautiful, powerful works of art. Owen even “breaks” a few rules himself; for instance, poetry, unlike fiction, is simply meant “to be.” Rarely does it leave us with a message or moral to take home; it is often written for pure enjoyment of the language and how the words flow together, making a pleasing audio experience. Also, poetry often does not have a distinct beginning, middle, and end, as is necessary for most fiction (though there are some exceptions). Yet Owen provides a solid structure to the poem, breaking it down into a very easy-to-follow narrative. And finally, Owen also provides the core elements of a basic story: setting, character, and conflict. Rarely do these elements exist in such vivid form in poetry. There are exceptions, of course, but they are quite few. (Those who do are considered amongst the greatest poets themselves.) Owen, however, doesn’t let these key elements of fiction stop him from inserting them into his poem. In fact, he blends these elements and those of good poetry together, allowing his powerful message come to life: War is neither glorious, nor an honor.

His first task is to establish a setting. This is brilliantly done in the very opening lines of the poem: “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge…” (1-2). Already, the reader has a setting to fall back on, a place, time, and situation. Though the speaker is not yet identified, it is obvious that he is in a difficult situation. The environment around him and his comrades is dreary, muddy, and damp, as evidenced by their physical distress. This, as Owen knows, is enough to “hook” the readers, to provide enough intrigue to keep the readers’ interest piqued. Having now hooked the reader, he is able to develop the setting even more as he continues: “Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots / But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue…” (5-7). This is where the main character (an element usually identified only with fiction, and thus unique in poetry) is wholly identified: it is now evident that he and his companions are soldiers of war, marching towards some unknown destination. By using elements connotative with storytelling, not poetry, Owen has successfully begun his poem with setting, situation, and intrigue. He sets up a scene, identifies characters, and, presumably, is about to give a dynamic conflict for these characters to go through.

And he wastes no time in doing so. Owen’s narrator – with a brilliant use of alliteration on the author’s part – suddenly shifts from merely relating his tale to being in the moment, narrating events as they happen. The story shifts from potential danger to immediate urgency in one simple, powerful command: “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!” (9). Immediately the soldiers are in danger, and the readers suddenly see characters active and emotional as they would in a work of fiction. Conflict is essential to any story, whether poetical or not, and Owen introduces it quickly, urgently, and graphically. The cacophony (a strong poetical element) of the hard g, q, and c in the second stanza points to the physical noise of men “fitting the clumsy helmets just in time” and the emotional desperation of the soldiers as they see their unfortunate comrade choking to death: “As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. / In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, / He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning” (13-16). Solid poetical language tells the story of these soldiers. Owen has been able to combine the best of both worlds into something horribly graphic and visual.

A final, but key, element of a typical short story that Owen inserts into his poem is that of theme, a “moral of the story.” Most poems don’t do this; they are simply meant to be works of lingual art, not offering criticism or a moral that readers are left analyzing. Owen, however, decides to bend this “rule,” and give his readers something to chew on. His soldier narrator, remembering the horrors of seeing “the white eyes writhing in his face, / His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin…” (19-20), almost angrily gives his readers a “lesson” to take away from the narrative. He offers them the simple truth of his profession: soldiers are paid killers who are themselves murdered in horrendous and brutal ways. He diffuses the lie that war is glorious, and begs the reader to not fill their children’s heads with the idea that war is honorable, when in reality it is the exact opposite. “If in some smothering dreams you too could pace…/ my friend,” he says, “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 [it is sweet and right to die for your country]” (17, 25-28).

With such dynamic characters, experienced handling of poetical elements, and perhaps a passionate desire to offer the world a different kind of poetry, Wilfred Owen wrote a powerful, dynamic poem that questions the “rules” of story and poetry writing, and offers instead a powerful poem created with storytelling nuances. There may, indeed, be rules in the writing world, but the best part of it is that rules can be broken, and when done so with as professional and talented a mind as Owen’s, it can be done beautifully.

February 01, 2008

Know God?

This message, which I heard last Sunday, is an amazing challenge, convicting, inspiring, heart-searching. We claim to know God...but what does that really mean? Even the demons know about Him...are we no better than they?

Please listen to this message, and earnestly pray over your relationship with our Lord. We all have so much to learn....

December 20, 2007

Calling all Writers, Editors, Proofreaders, and Graphic Designers!

Regenerate Our Culture is coming back! Or at least, that's the plan.

Currently, several of the members of ROC are trying to revive the magazine, and gathering ideas for other projects too, but we need people. Editors and writers, especially.

Regenerate Our Culture has been all about change, and we're taking this theme seriously in our newly renovated work. Our writing process now includes one-on-one contact with content editors, who will help writers polish their articles to a high gloss before sending them off to our proofreaders. Our proofreaders - people who love grammar so much it hurts when others use it incorrectly - take the articles to the highest level by making sure the article is as close to perfection as it can be. When publishing date comes, voila! We have many different articles and many different points of interest that invigorate, encourage, and stimulate our readers and, Lord willing, bring honor to God Himself.

If you want to help us in any way, either by working with the editors, designing the website, proofreading, or writing articles, Veronika Walker (me) at editor@regenerateourculture.com .

More to follow, so keep an eye out for the new RegeneratedMag!

December 07, 2007


[Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." ~~Matthew 26:40, 41]

I've felt like Peter so many times in this part of His life, willing to serve, but so fragile and weak when it comes down to forcing my will to go through with it. The physical body has so much more power over us than we like to admit; the Word says we must "conquer the body," yet we continue to let it hold sway over us. Even in little things, like flipping on the television instead of going for a walk around the block, eating one more piece of turkey over Thanksgiving dinner instead of listening to our bulging stomachs...sleeping in just a few minutes longer instead of getting up to read God's Word.

I've been there so many times, and it discourages me.

But, thank the Lord that He gives us a way out. "Watch and pray." It still requires discipline however. Therein lies the problem. We can't push past our apathy without Divine Intervention, and we can't have Divine Intervention without prayer. It's a viscious cycle, in some ways, but we get the easy end of it; all we have to do is cry. Cry out to the God who saves us and Who has promised that "no temptation shall be greater than you can bear." If prayer and discipline was something we couldn't handle, we wouldn't have to. But we have that struggle, so obviously, we can handle it, and we can overcome it. We just have to remember that we can only do so with the help of God, not of our own strength, for our flesh is weak. Thank God that He is strong.

October 29, 2007

Pride in My Heart

I've leaned so much about pride the past few weeks.
I am really such a prideful person; it really is quite disgusting. I want everything to be perfect, even in my drabblings and musings here...I can't have a single mispelling, even in the word "mispelling". It seems as if everything I do has to reflect tons about who I am. I know that subconsciously and consiously, all that I do is to make sure that I look good. I claim that it is so God will get the glory, but in thinking over it, I don't really think that's the case.

I am a proud person.

There. I said it. It's frustrating to even admit that. :{ I don't want to be. I hate even looking at it.

But, I think it's the truth. I'm stuck on myself. I think my desire to write stems from a source of pride. I want people to read my stuff; I want peope to be influenced by what I think and say. The desire, the motivation, is wrong, or tends to be, at least. I want God to use me in great ways, but that's just it: I want Him to use me. I think way too much of myself. I should instead be saying, "LORD, how can You use me? I'm wretched and I don't deserve Your mercy!"

Please, LORD God, help me to be the humble Christian You call us all to be. Make me to see how weak and frail and undeserving I am, and how little I of myself have to offer. Even my writing needs to be seen as a gift from You, not something of my own making or working. Please, LORD, help me to understand what it is You desire of me, no matter what I have to sacrifice to please You. Please, God, make me as Your humble Son. Show me more of You and more of what it means to be Your servant. Help me to deny myself, take up my cross [daily] and follow You, in loving obedience and humility. Amen, LORD God. May it be.

August 25, 2007

On Email

Never check your email before you start reading…There is something in the format of e-mail (its terseness? the sheer volume of messages? its tendency to reward skimming over deep reading?) that pulls the mind away from the contemplative, relaxed frame so important for good reading. If you get good news, you’re distracted by it; if someone writes you a nasty note, you’ll spend the next forty-five minutes mentally formulating blistering replies rather than concentrating on your book. If no one writes at all, you’ll be depressed because you’ve suddenly become invisible in cyperspace.“–Susan Wise Bauer, The Well Educated Mind

This made me laugh! Blistering replies? Overjoyed exuberance? Sudden depression (used mildly) at your own invisibility? :D Okay, I admit it; I have an affinity to this quote. Susan makes her point well (and in an amusing manner at that) about the mental distraction email can be .

In context, Susan is referring ‘reading’ as the intensive study of the classic literature –literature like Plato and his fellow sophists. I find it even more applicable to reading something far more important: God’s Word. We should not just be careful to a set aside time to read and study God’s Word; we should also be vigilant to preserve mental focus for our time alone with our Creator and his Word. After all, His law is perfect, converting the soul, his testimony is sure, making wise the simple, his statues are right, rejoicing the heart, and his commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes…they are more to be desired than gold, yeah, than much fine gold, and they are sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb!* Wow. Think about that!

So, If you’re having trouble concentrating on your Plato after breakfast because you just checked your email, maybe you should think about implementing the mantra Susan presents. Never check your email before reading. But far more importantly, if you’re struggling to focus on the precious, holy Word of God, just because you’re still mentally reeling from your visit to your inbox, then I challenge you. Never check your morning email before your time alone with your Redeemer and His Words of life! In my experience, any efforts to reduce brain traffic before my quiet time in the morning with God and His Word has always been worth it. He is worth it!

*Psalm 19:7,8,10, slightly condensed.

August 20, 2007

When Leadership Calls You...

I learned something hard today: It isn't always easy to be a leader.

In fact, it's usually rather difficult. You are required to do many things that you may not otherwise be called upon to do. For instance, most leaders must have the ability to guide, or even rebuke, the people under them.

I learned that today, and it's not nearly as easy as it might sound. Especially when you're a Christian, and must deal with all men with love and kindness, and as Christ would.

But Christ did chide His disciples when they needed it. In fact, He even became very harsh with them at certain times, like when they argued over who the greatest of them would be, or when Peter, James, and John slept at the Mount of Olives instead of watching over Him as He asked. It's a difficult and often uncomfortable task, but it is a position that you can learn much from. I have.