In the fourth stanza Owen takes a step back from the action and uses his poetic voice to bitterly and incisively criticize those who promulgate going to war as a glorious endeavor. He paints a vivid picture of the dying young soldier, taking pains to limn just how unnatural it is, "obscene as cancer". The dying man is an offense to innocence and purity – his face like a "devil's sick of sin". Owen then says that, if you knew what the reality of war was like, you would not go about telling children they should enlist. There is utterly no ambiguity in the poem, and thus it is emblematic of poetry critical of war.
A select group of well-educated soldier officers, including Wilfred Owen, came to view the war as one of pity and horror. This was a minority view but expressed through powerful and well-written poetry. In the 1960s a literary elite decided this was the most authentic view of the conflict because it chimed with their own anti-war feelings. This resulted in the publication of two key war poetry anthologies edited by Brian Gardner and Ian Parsons. These heavily featured Owen and other poets whose work seemed to suggest World War One had been futile.
In May 1917 Owen was diagnosed with neurasthenia ( shell-shock ) and sent to Craiglockhart hospital near Edinburgh to recover. Whilst receiving treatment at the hospital, Owen became the editor of the hospital magazine, The Hydra , and met the poet Siegfried Sassoon , who was to have a major impact upon his life and work and to play a crucial role in the dissemination of Owen’s poetry following his untimely death in 1918, aged only 25. Owen wrote a number of his most famous poems at Craiglockhart, including several drafts of both ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ and ‘ Anthem for Doomed Youth ’. Sassoon advised and encouraged Owen, and this is evident in a number of drafts which include Sassoon’s annotations.