Siegfried Sassoon was perhaps the most innocent of the war poets. John Hildebidle has called Sassoon the "accidental hero." Born into a wealthy Jewish family in 1886, Sassoon lived the pastoral life of a young squire: fox-hunting, playing cricket, golfing and writing romantic verses.
Being an innocent, Sassoon's reaction to the realities of the war were all the more bitter and violent -- both his reaction through his poetry and his reaction on the battlefield (where, after the death of fellow officer David Thomas and his brother Hamo at Gallipoli, Sassoon earned the nickname "Mad Jack" for his near-suicidal exploits against the German lines -- in the early ... more »
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Siegfried Sassoon Poems
Suicide in the Trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy Who grinned at life in empty joy, Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, And whistled early with the lark.
Have you forgotten yet?... For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days, Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways: And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Adam, a brown old vulture in the rain, Shivered below his wind-whipped olive-trees; Huddling sharp chin on scarred and scraggy knees, He moaned and mumbled to his darkening brain;
“The rank stench of those bodies haunts ...
The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still And I remember things I'd best forget. For now we've marched to a green, trenchless land
Does It Matter?
Does it matter? -losing your legs? For people will always be kind, And you need not show that you mind When others come in after hunting
A Child's Prayer
For Morn, my dome of blue, For Meadows, green and gay, And Birds who love the twilight of the leaves, Let Jesus keep me joyful when I pray.
A Letter Home
(To Robert Graves) I
A Mystic As Soldier
I lived my days apart, Dreaming fair songs for God; By the glory in my heart Covered and crowned and shod.
AT dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun, Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Died of Wounds
His wet white face and miserable eyes Brought nurses to him more than groans and sighs: But hoarse and low and rapid rose and fell His troubled voice: he did the business well.
The anguish of the earth absolves our eyes Till beauty shines in all that we can see. War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise, And, fighting for our freedom, we are free.
'Jack fell as he'd have wished,' the Mother said, And folded up the letter that she'd read. 'The Colonel writes so nicely.' Something broke In the tired voice that quavered to a choke.
‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said When we met him last week on our way to the line. Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead, And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
I’ve listened: and all the sounds I heard Were music,—wind, and stream, and bird. With youth who sang from hill to hill I’ve listened: my heart is hungry still.
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
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Suicide in the Trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.