The Old Lie, Peter Parker

The Old Lie, Peter Parker

The Great War and the Public School Ethos

This book starts from the last two lines of Wilfred Owen's famous poem "Dulce et Decorum Est"

"The old lie; Dulce et Decorum est,
Pro patria mori"

Taken from an ode by Horace, this translates as "it is sweet and right to die for your country". Parker investigages how this idea came to permeate the world of the British Public School, looking at the broader context of the schools, how they developed over the previous century, how their character changed and the literature it produced. He then goes on to look at how ex-Public Schoolboys reacted to the war once they were involved in it.

In places this is a strongly opinionated book - indeed given the subject matter its hard to imagine how it could not be. On occasions poems are judged less on their quality and more on how they fit in with the attitude of the War Poets - indeed even one or two of their own poems are criticised in this way. Given the nature of the subject matter, this is actually a good thing - Parker has an argument to make, and makes it well. This book stands as a valuable reminder of the hideous nature of the fighting on the Western Front, and how it clashed with pre-war images of the heroic death in battle.

Author: Peter Parker
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 319
Publisher: The Old Lie, Peter Parker
Year: 2007 (new edition)

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