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About this poet

Siegfried Sassoon was born on September 8, 1886, in Kent, England. He attended Kent's New Beacon School and Marlborough College before attending Clare College, Cambridge, in 1905. While there, he privately published his first volume of poetry in 1906. He left Cambridge before receiving a degree and spent several years privately publishing his verse, including a parody of John Masefield called The Daffodil Murderer (John Richmond, 1913).

Sassoon is primarily known for his his poems inspired by his experiences in World War I, which were originally published in three volumes: Picture-Show (Heinemann, 1919), Counter-Attack and Other Poems (Heinemann, 1918), and The Old Huntsman (Heinemann, 1917).

Sassoon enlisted at the beginning of the war, in 1914, but a riding accident delayed his commission. In April 1915 his brother was killed at Gallipoli, and in May 1915 Sassoon was commisioned to the Royal Welch Fusiliers and soon left to fight in France. He returned to England in 1916, to recover from an illness, and in 1917, to recover from a gunshot wound. During these periods he developed ties to several pacifists, including Bertrand Russell. In June 1917 he wrote a statement protesting the war that was read aloud in the House of Commons. The poet Robert Graves helped him avoid a court martial through a diagnosis of neurasthenia, and as a result, he was hospitalized at the Craiglockhart War Hospital. While there, he became friends with the poet Wilfred Owen. He returned to France in 1918, where he was wounded by friendly fire.

After World War I, Sassoon published a series of fictionalized autobiographies known collectively as The Memoirs of George Sherston, and he also served as the literary editor of the Daily Herald for several years. Sassoon was gay, and after the war he had a series of relationships with other men before marrying Hester Gatty in 1933. Together they had a son, George Sassoon, before separating in 1945. In 1951 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He died on September 1, 1967. On November 11, 1985, his name was added to a memorial in Westminter Abbey's Poet's Corner.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Sequences (Faber and Faber, 1956)
The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon (Heinemann, 1919)
Picture-Show (Heinemann, 1919)
Counter-Attack and Other Poems (Heinemann, 1918)
The Old Huntsman (Heinemann, 1917)

Prose
Siegfried's Journey (Faber and Faber, 1945)
The Weald of Youth (Faber and Faber, 1942)
Sherston's Progress (Faber and Faber, 1936)
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (Faber and Faber, 1930)
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (Faber and Gwyer, 1928)

Prelude: The Troops

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down
The stale despair of night, must now renew
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.

Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky
That hastens over them where they endure
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.

O my brave brown companions, when your souls
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,
Death will stand grieving in that field of war
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;
The unreturning army that was youth;
The legions who have suffered and are dust.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon, born in England in 1886, is best known for his poems inspired by his experiences in World War I. Also a novelist, Sassoon died on September 1, 1967.

by this poet

poem

Shaken from sleep, and numbed and scarce awake,
Out in the trench with three hours' watch to take,
I blunder through the splashing mirk; and then
Hear the gruff muttering voices of the men
Crouching in cabins candle-chinked with light.
Hark! There's the big bombardment on our right

poem

I'd been on duty from two till four.
I went and stared at the dug-out door.
Down in the frowst I heard them snore.
"Stand-to!" Somebody grunted and swore.
     Dawn was misty; the skies were still;
     Larks were singing, discordant, shrill;
     They seemed happy; but I

poem

"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.
She half looked up. "We mothers are so proud
Of our dead soldiers." Then her face was bowed.

Quietly