Archive for November 8th, 2009

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae”

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace’s Odes (III.2.13). The line has been used frequently in war poetry – most notably by WWI poet Wilfred Owen.

The quotation above translates as… “It is sweet and right to die for the homeland, but it is sweeter to live for the homeland, and the sweetest to drink for it. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.”

My interest in this quotation was triggered by a tweet today from Oedipus_Lex who was at The Cenotaph marching today.  He described the maxim as ‘The Great lie’ – and, of course, he is right.  No-one wants to die for their country.  It isn’t sweet and right to die for one’s country – but it is right to wish to fight for one’s country and it is right that we should honour those who gave their lives in war so that we may enjoy life and freedom.  One wonders whether our government(s) are now squandering the freedom brave men and women have given their lives for by failing to address the big issues properly, by knee-jerk reactions to terror, by eroding our  civil liberties, by failing to govern minimally and effectively.

The Independent today became the first newspaper to call for our troops to be brought home in their leader. I don’t know enough, frankly, to hold a clear opinion, let alone express a view at this stage.  I would be surprised if many, not privy to government and military information, know enough either.   I do, however, agree with the proposition expressed by many commentators that while we may not agree with the reasons for the war, we do support the troops and it is essential that the troops know that we respect their work, that we honour their dead and they are properly equipped and resourced.  Gordon Brown has come in for serious criticism this week from former senior military and naval officers – men who rose to the very top of the services, men who, in their day, advised government. One would have thought that weight should be given to their opinions? Is there another way of dealing with this long long war… a war that some say is, ultimately, unwinnable – a war that could go on for many years to come?

I think I shall have a drink to the memory of the many who have given their lives and to the living who choose to use their lives to serve in our armed forces now. Salut! slainte


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