During the Cold War, a period when armed conflict between the USA and Russia was being avoided, US President Dwight Eisenhower, a former soldier, said: "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity". This anti-war viewpoint is the same as that expressed in the poem Dulce et Decorum Est, written by Wilfred Owen, a soldier who fought in World War One. His excellent use of diction, figurative language, punctuation, and imagery convinces the reader that war is actually the disastrous series of tragic events he, as a soldier, had to go through.
The poem's main theme, the veneration of war, is explored though imagery that presents war as horrifying. The persona's viewpoint, used to express the meaning of the poem, is that this worshiping of war should be terminated. A reference to children is made, who are said to be lied to when told that they should be proud to die for their country, since the horrors lived in war are never mentioned to them.
The title of the poem, which translated from Latin means "Sweet and Honourable it is", is clearly ironic. In the last verse, the title makes reference to the viewpoint society has on dying for one's own country, that is, on going to war. And since the persona is in opposition of this viewpoint, as the rest of the poem shows, the irony of the title lies in that it says exactly the opposite of what the poet thinks and in what he is trying to communicate.
The form of the poem consists of four stanzas. The first stanza describes the initial scene, where the soldiers are walking through a trench. The second one narrates a tense situation, where gas shells are thrown at the marching soldiers and one of them fails to put on his helmet on time, and consequently dies. The third and fourth stanzas deal with the after-war emotions felt by the poetic voice, and hence express the anti-war viewpoint of the persona.