Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Although we don't get too many allusions, the ones we do get are central to the message of the poem. In fact, we begin and end with a shout-out to one of the founding fathers of Western literature, Horace. Why? Well, that's a good question….
- Line 2: The simile comparing soldiers to old hags has potential as an allusion as well. Think about it: literature is chock-full of nasty old hags. There's the witch in "Hansel and Gretel" and the witches of Macbeth. Even the old crone who helps the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves could probably fall into the "hag" category. Owen probably knew that his description would carry lots of cultural weight and used it to his advantage. Why compare soldiers to witches? Well, we'll leave that up to you.
- Line 20: The devil's always a popular allusion in poems about bad stuff. Frankly, he's about as bad as it gets.
- Lines 27-28: Ah, the biggie. This is the allusion to beat all allusions. It's one of the most-quoted lines of 20th century poetry…and Owen didn't even write it himself! Referring to a popular school text allows Owen to take a swing at all the popular rhetoric about the glories of war.