Through poems with blazing guns, spurting blood, and screaming agony, Wilfred Owen justly deserves the label, applied by critics, of war poet. Some critics, like W.B. Yeats who said, “I consider [Wilfred Owen] unworthy of the poets corner of a country news paper,” (362) satisfy themselves with this label and argue Owen lacked the artistic merit to be given much attention beyond it. However, many other Owen critics like David Daiches interest themselves in trying to identify what unique perspectives Owen’s poems present and why those perspectives captivate so many people. Daiches argues that Owen engages so many readers because “he penetrates into the inner reality” (363) of the war experience. He explains how Owen captured this inner reality by saying: “Owen never forgot what normal human activity was like, and always had a clear sense of its relation to the abnormal activity of war” (363). In this criticism Daiches wisely recognizes the need for an account of Owen’s popularity; however, at least in “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” even beyond the capacity to convey inner reality, there lurks a more apt explanation of Owen’s popularity—archaic reality.
Owen, a Welsh descendent through both parental lines, through his diction, draws upon his Celtic roots, both psychological and linguistic, in writing “Dulce Et Decorum Est.” Actions, themes, and words throughout the poem relate to obscure pagan ritualistic human sacrifice and combine to give the poem a deep connection to the early druidic peoples of Britain, Ireland and Gaul—peoples of the very lands which became embroiled in World War I.
Fascinating connections between Owen’s work and druidic peoples turn up in early Roman historians’...
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