The 28-line poem, which is written in loose iambic pentameter, is narrated by Owen himself. It tells of a group of soldiers in World War I, forced to trudge "through sludge," though "drunk with fatigue," marching slowly away from the falling explosive shells behind them, towards a place of rest. As gas shells begin to fall upon them, the soldiers scramble to put on their gas masks to protect themselves. In the rush, one man clumsily drops his mask, and the narrator sees the man "yelling out and stumbling / and flound'ring like a man in fire or lime." The image of the man, "guttering, choking, drowning" permeates Owen's thoughts and dreams, forcing him to relive the nightmare again and again. Owen then talks about how he has to throw the man into the back of a wagon and the man's "hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin."
Owen, in the final stanza, asserts that, should readers see what he has seen, they would no longer see fit to instill visions of glorious warfare in young men's heads. No longer would they tell their children the "Old Lie," so long ago told by the Roman poet Horace: "Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori" ("It is sweet and proper to die for one's country")"Dulce et Decorum Est" is a poem written by English soldier and poet Wilfred Owen in 1917, during the First World War, and published posthumously in 1920. Owen's poem is known for its horrifying imagery and its condemnation of war. It was drafted at Craiglockhart in the first half of October 1917 and later revised, probably at Scarborough but possibly Ripon, between January and March 1918. The earliest surviving manuscript is dated 8 Oct 1917 and addressed to his mother Susan Owen with the message "Here is a gas poem done yesterday, (which is not private, but not final)".