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It was also inscribed on the wall of the chapel of the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst in 1913.In the first stanza Owen is speaking in first person, putting himself with his fellow soldiers as they labor through the sludge of the battlefield. They have lost the semblance of humanity and are reduced to ciphers.Summary The boys are bent over like old beggars carrying sacks, and they curse and cough through the mud until the "haunting flares" tell them it is time to head toward their rest.
He describes his experience of a gas attack where he lost a member of his squadron and the lasting impact it had on him.
He describes how terrible the conditions were for the soldiers and just how bad it was.
They are wearied to the bone and desensitized to all but their march.
In the second stanza the action occurs – poisonous gas forces the soldiers to put their helmets on.
Its vibrant imagery and searing tone make it an unforgettable excoriation of WWI, and it has found its way into both literature and history courses as a paragon of textual representation of the horrors of the battlefield.
It was written in 1917 while Owen was at Craiglockhart, revised while he was at either Ripon or Scarborough in 1918, and published posthumously in 1920.
The line derives from the Roman poet Horace's .
The phrase was commonly used during the WWI era, and thus would have resonated with Owen's readers.
Through the dim "thick green light" the speaker sees him fall like he is drowning.
The drowning man is in the speaker's dreams, always falling, choking.