Thanks for your post, Gargamel
Found this interesting:
On Dulce et Decorum est: a professor pointed out how the "ecstasy of fumbling" is a darkly ironic line. It's a romantic line that alludes to what young men would ideally be doing (sex!) in a time of peace, but here the context is quite grim.
A good teacher he was.[/quote]
I'm no expert of course, but I've always admired Owen's use of the word "ecstasy", and seen it as a way of describing the long, drawn-out moment. "An ecstasy of fumbling". Even the word itself is long and drawn out.
(numb fingers fumbling with straps and webbing, while the body copes with an overdose of adrenaline - making the delicate operation excruciatingly difficult).
Ecstasy is linked to pain, in as much as one can produce the other.
(When in pain, the human body produces natural endorphins to give relief. And you can get high on it.) Also, fear produces similar physical symptoms as ecstasy, such as racing heart and raised adrenaline.
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.
I'm not trying to be clever or prove a point here - I'm new to poetry and open to theory, but given Owen's homosexual tendencies (for which he could have been imprisoned), and the serious subject matter, I can't see it your teacher's way.
Although I can see where the idea might come from:
" An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time"
Does conjure up an image of first attempts at safe sex.
but only since you mentioned it!