Pace Wilfred Owen, it’s not an outright lie – dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
Remembrance ceremonies, such as the ceremony taking place this morning at London’s Cenotaph, enact the ‘sweet and noble’. A ritual of dulce et decorum, but not necessarily hollow. The falsification comes in the change of tense – not ‘to die’, Horace’s old line would be straight and true if it read: ‘to have died’.
On Remembrance Sunday, in the primary composition of former combatants, thesecondary role accorded to politicians and other civic dignitaries, and, above all, in thetwo, silent minutes of concerted contemplation, decorum is restored to all those who have died in bloody chaos.
In the moment, bodies broken open (more ghastly than grave robbing), bereft of sense and sensibility (only sensation, agonising sensation). But now they are people again, re-assembled in orderly progression.
The solemn procession, at its head our idea of the dead.
Take this, we say, for we do it remembrance of you. Which may be only partly true, but what else….?
Whichever side. Besides the Cause. There is nobility in having died, now it has been entered post festum.