Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace's Odes (III.2.13). The line is usually translated as: "It is sweet and proper to die for one's country." The Latin word patria, meaning the country of one's fathers (Latin patres) or ancestors, is the source of the French word for a country, patrie, as well as the English word patriot (one who loves his country).
The phrase was famously used as the title of a well-known poem by Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est", published in 1920 and describing the experiences of soldiers in World War I. The poem essentially ended direct and earnest use of the phrase, calling it "the old lie." Usage pre-1920 tended to be in odes to the fallen and on monuments; usage post-1920 tended to be to critique propaganda and war.
The poem from which the line comes, exhorts Roman citizens to develop martial prowess such that the enemies of Rome, in particular the Parthians, will be too terrified to resist the Romans. In John Conington's translation, the relevant passage reads:
Angustam amice pauperiem pati
To suffer hardness with good cheer,
A humorous elaboration of the original line was used as a toast in the 19th century: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae." A reasonable English translation would be: "It is sweet and fitting to die for the homeland, but sweeter still to live for the homeland, and sweetest yet to drink for the homeland. So, let us drink to the health of the homeland."
Uses in art and literature
- Perhaps the most famous modern use of the phrase is as the title of a poem, "Dulce et Decorum est", by British poet Wilfred Owen during World War I. Owen's poem describes a gas attack during World War I and is one of his many anti-war poems that were not published until after the war ended. In the final lines of the poem, the Horatian phrase is described as "the old lie". It is believed, and illustrated by the original copy of the poem, that Owen intended to dedicate the poem ironically to Jessie Pope, a popular writer who glorified the war and recruited "laddies" who "longed to charge and shoot" in simplistically patriotic poems like "The Call".
- "Died some, pro patria, non 'dulce' non 'et decor' ..." from part IV of Ezra Pound's "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley", a damning indictment of World War I; "Daring as never before, wastage as never before."
- In a 1915 school essay, German playwright Bertolt Brecht referred to the phrase as Zweckpropaganda (cheap propaganda for a specific cause) and pointed out that "It is sweeter and more fitting to live for one's country," an essay for which he was nearly expelled.
- The title of Damon Knight's 1955 short story "Dulcie and Decorum" is an ironic play on the first three words of the phrase; the story is about computers that induce humans to kill themselves.
- The film Johnny Got His Gun ends with this saying, along with casualty statistics since World War I.
- In the film All Quiet on the Western Front, a teacher quotes this early on while talking to his class.
- In his book And No Birds Sang, chronicling his service in Italy with the Canadian army during World War II, Farley Mowat quotes Wilfred Owen's poem on the opening pages and addresses "the Old Lie" in the final section of the book.
- Tim O'Brien quotes the line in the book If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.
- In Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, the Tarleton brothers are buried under a tombstone which bears the phrase.
- The last words attributed to the Israeli national hero Yosef Trumpeldor - "It is good to die for our country" (טוב למות בעד ארצנו) - are considered to be derived from Horace's, and were a frequently used Zionist slogan in the early 20th century.
- In William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair the quote appears of George Osborne's tombstone after he dies fighting for England at Waterloo.
- In Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life after the outbreak of World War I, adolescent Eugene, encouraged by his teacher, Margaret Leonard, devours stories of wartime courage (R. Brooke's "If I Should die ..." and R. Hanky's A Student in Arms), and fueled by these stories, composes his own, to the ever-present literary-referenced commentary by Wolfe.
- Karl Marlantes' novel Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War features a mock-mass between Mellas and others, in which the line is satirically quoted.
- The British rock band Kasabian posts the quote at the end of the music video for their song, Empire.
- The British rock band The Damned released a single named In Dulce Decorum in 1987.
- American band Kamelot quotes the line in the song Memento Mori, from their seventh album, The Black Halo.
- Scottish rock band The Skids include a song named Dulce Et Decorum Est (Pro Patria Mori) on the album Days in Europa in 1979.
- British folk-metal band Skyclad uses the quote in the song Jeopardy, in their album, The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea.
- The British dark cabaret act The Tiger Lillies include a song called "Dulce et Decorum Est" in the album "A Dream Turns Sour" from 2014. This is a reading of the Wilfred Owen poem with music written by Martyn Jacques.
Use as a motto and inscription
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The phrase was prominently inscribed in a large bronze tablet commemorating Cuban patriot Calixto García Iniguez, Major-General of the Spanish–American War. The tablet was erected by the Masons where he died at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington, D.C. Today, this tablet resides at the private residence of one of Gen. García's direct descendants.
The inscription is also seen on the rear-quarter of the Memorial Tablet in the front garden of St Joseph's Boys' High School, Bangalore in memory of the Old Boys of the school who laid down their lives in service for the British Empire in the Great War (1914-1918). A statue of St Joseph with Infant Jesus now stands upon the tablet.
The 'dulce et ... ' is written on a plaque on the left wall of main entrance of the Patiala Block, King Edward Medical University, Lahore, Pakistan. It is to commemorate the sacrifice given by the students and graduates of the institution who gave their lives in First World War fighting for the British Empire.
It can be found inscribed on the outer wall of an old war fort within the Friseboda nature reserve in Sweden.
The phrase is carved in the monument commemorating the Battle of Wyoming (Pennsylvania) known as the Wyoming Massacre, 3 July 1778, erected 3 July 1878.
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is the motto of the following organizations:
- The Portuguese Military Academy (Academia Militar)
- The Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne (former motto)
- The 103rd Ground Reconnaissance Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Army
- The 10/27 Royal South Australian Regiment of the Royal Australian Infantry Corps adopted "Pro Patria" derived from the above line meaning "For One's Country" as their unit motto.
The shorter phrase "Pro Patria" ("for the homeland") may or may be not related to the Horace quote:
- The phrase "Pro Patria" is the motto of the Higgins or O'Huigan clan.
- "Pro Patria" is also the motto of the Sri Lanka Army as well as being inscribed on the collar insignia of the Royal Canadian Regiment.
- Pro Patria is the name of a neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela.
- "Horace: Odes III". thelatinlibrary.com.
- "Q. Horatius Flaccus (Horace), Odes, Book 3, Poem 2".
- "Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen". Poemhunter.com. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- "Copy of archival record". Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- Hässler, Hans-Jürgen; von Heusinger, Christian, eds. (1989). Kultur gegen Krieg, Wissenschaft für den Frieden [Culture against War, Science for Peace] (in German). Würzburg, Germany: Königshausen & Neumann. ISBN 978-3884794012.
- KasabianVEVO (3 October 2009). "Kasabian - Empire" – via YouTube.
- "Jeopardy - Skyclad".
- The Tiger Lillies (18 June 2014). ""Dulce et Decorum Est" by The Tiger Lillies" – via YouTube.
- "Calgary Board of Education - Central Memorial High School". Schools.cbe.ab.ca. 30 June 2013. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
- Law, Francis (1983). A man at arms: memoirs of two world wars. London: Collins. p. 44. ISBN 0-00-217057-4.
-  Archived 11 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine