Do you love the mix of Edwardian drama and World War I scenes of the second season of Downton Abbey on PBS? Below, we’ve collected links to four free digital poetry books from the period that you can download right now.
Over at the New York Times, reporter Julie Bosman covered how publishers are taking advantage of this popular show to promote historical fiction and biography.
One reader added this comment: “The poets who wrote of the horrors of World War I represent some of the greatest poets of all time. I’m not referring to Rupert Brooke, who romanticized the war, but to Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas, and particularly to Wilfred Owen [pictured], who died a week before the armistice and whose poems are truly heartbreaking. Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is one of the best.”
Downton Abbey Poetry Reading List
If you want to see what everybody is talking about, you can watch the first season of Downton Abbey for free online for a limited time.
As an extra bonus, here is the full text of Owen’s most famous poem.
Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
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
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.