The Old Lie

New paper banner as an altar frontal at the Met Cathedral, Liverpool, this morning with the words dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Does anyone, since local lad Wilfred Owen nailed “the old lie”, still really think it is sweet and right to be conscripted to die for one’s country? No problem honouring the fallen, especially those who volunteered to fight tyranny or to liberate others, but “sweet and right” as nationalism? Pu-lease.

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


Photo by James Harris on Unsplash


“War is never glorious, never a good, though it may sometimes be the lesser of evils. To remember war, for Christians, is to come face to face with the reality of sin, and the web of failure and compromise which surrounds even our best-intentioned collective action. War sometimes involves victory over a measurable evil: the downfall of a tyranny, the opening of prison doors. But it always involves the failure of human communication, the exaltation of hatred into a virtue, the calculated destruction of the innocent along with the guilty. There are no innocent combatants, and no victors. There is no true remembrance which is not also, and first of all, repentance.” – Eamon Duffy