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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Latin Quotes

St. Peters Churchyard, Arlesey, Beds 

Latin Quotes on headstones intrigue me and it's not until I can look them up and discover their meaning that I realise they are often a reference to the way that someone lived or died, especially when there are no other clues to go on.
Throughout Great Britain, headstones of young men who died between 1914 and 1918, most likely died as a result of fighting in the 1st World War.
The memorial above belongs to :

Alma Rachel Rowe
Died Nov 16th 1918
aged 22 tears

Also to the memory
of my dear son
Stanley Rowe
'Pro Patria Mori'
on the 13th Oct 1918
aged 21 years

The words on this grave 'Pro Patria Mori' translates to: To die for one's country.

'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' is a line from the Roman lyrical poet 'Horace’s Odes'. Roughly translated as ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country’ The line has been commonplace in modern times throughout Europe. It was quoted by Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat immediately before his beheading on Tower Hill in 1747. It was much quoted in reference to the British Empire in the 19th century, particularly during the Boer War.

Perhaps the most famous modern use of the phrase is as the title of a poem,            ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by British poet Wilfred Owen during World War 1, where it was used satirically.
Owen's poem describes a gas attack during World War I and is one of his many anti-war poems that were not published until after the war ended. In the final lines of the poem, the Horatian phrase is described as ‘The old Lie’. It is believed that Owen intended to dedicate the poem ironically to Jessie Pope, a popular writer who glorified the war and recruited ‘Laddies’ who ‘longed to charge and shoot’ in simplistically patriotic poems like ‘The Call’. Owen was killed in action one week before the war ended in 1918.

Ezra Pound’s poem ‘Hugh Selwyn Mauberley’ part IV ‘Died some, pro patria, non 'dulce' non 'et decor'...’ ‘Daring as never before, wastage as never before’: was a damning indictment of World War I.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae’
translated 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." It was a frequent 19th century students' toast.

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