Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy Birthday WO!!!

If I can read a poem backwards and it is as good or better than the original, that is a mark of a good poet. There are other marks of course, but this is one. I love Wilfred Owen. I'll say it. I love Wilfred Owen. I'll say it. I'll say it. Dulce Et Decorum Est is one of my favorite poems ever. Ever. Hands down one of the best English language poems ever written. Sounds awesome backwards too:

Pro patria mori,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est.
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud,
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs.
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
Behind the wagon that we flung him in;
If in some smothering dream you too could pace.

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning,
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning,
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
But someone was still yelling out and stumbling.
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,

Of gas shells dropping softly behind,
Drunk with fatigue, deaf even to the hoots;
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge,
Till on the haunting glares we turned our backs,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we curses through sludge,
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks.

Dulce et decorum est.


Ivy said...

Hm, maybe I oughta try reading poems backwards. ;-)

Anonymous the Younger said...

It's fun

and often quite revealing.

Gerard Manley Hopkins is particularly poignant backwards, but my favorite backwards poet is ee cummings.

And then there is a whole class of poets whose poetry is only good when read backwards, most famously: Ernest Hemingway.

I believe it was Jared Leising taught me this trick to unlocking a poem. Probably in beginning poetry class.