[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Hero

'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 the Brother Officer went out.
He'd told the poor old dear some gallant lies
That she would nourish all her days, no doubt
For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyes
Had shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,
Because he'd been so brave, her glorious boy.

He thought how 'Jack', cold-footed, useless swine,
Had panicked down the trench that night the mine
Went up at Wicked Corner; how he'd tried
To get sent home, and how, at last, he died,
Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care
Except that lonely woman with white hair.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Survivors

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Kiss

To these I turn, in these I trust--
Brother Lead and Sister Steel.
To his blind power I make appeal,
I guard her beauty clean from rust.

He spins and burns and loves the air,
And splits a skull to win my praise;
But up the nobly marching days
She glitters naked, cold and fair.

Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this:
That in good fury he may feel
The body where he sets his heel
Quail from your downward darting kiss.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Autumn

October's bellowing anger breaks and cleaves
The bronzed battalions of the stricken wood
In whose lament I hear a voice that grieves
For battle’s fruitless harvest, and the feud
Of outraged men. Their lives are like the leaves
Scattered in flocks of ruin, tossed and blown
Along the westering furnace flaring red.
O martyred youth and manhood overthrown,
The burden of your wrongs is on my head.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Base Details

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Christ and the Soldier

I
The straggled soldier halted -- stared at Him --
Then clumsily dumped down upon his knees,
Gasping "O blessed crucifix, I'm beat !"
And Christ, still sentried by the seraphim,
Near the front-line, between two splintered trees,
Spoke him: "My son, behold these hands and feet."
The soldier eyed him upward, limb by limb,
Paused at the Face, then muttered, "Wounds like these
Would shift a bloke to Blighty just a treat !"
Christ, gazing downward, grieving and ungrim,
Whispered, "I made for you the mysteries,
Beyond all battles moves the Paraclete."

II
The soldier chucked his rifle in the dust,
And slipped his pack, and wiped his neck, and said --
"O Christ Almighty, stop this bleeding fight !"
Above that hill the sky was stained like rust
With smoke. In sullen daybreak flaring red
The guns were thundering bombardment's blight.
The soldier cried, "I was born full of lust,
With hunger, thirst, and wishfulness to wed.
Who cares today if I done wrong or right?"
Christ asked all pitying, "Can you put no trust
In my known word that shrives each faithful head ?
Am I not resurrection, life and light ?"

III
Machine-guns rattled from below the hill;
High bullets flicked and whistled through the leaves;
And smoke came drifting from exploding shells.
Christ said "Believe; and I can cleanse your ill.
I have not died in vain between two thieves;
Nor made a fruitless gift of miracles."
The soldier answered, "Heal me if you will,
Maybe there's comfort when a soul believes
In mercy, and we need it in these hells.
But be you for both sides ? I'm paid to kill
And if I shoot a man his mother grieves.
Does that come into what your teaching tells ?"
A bird lit on the Christ and twittered gay;
Then a breeze passed and shook the ripening corn.
A Red Cross waggon bumped along the track.
Forsaken Jesus dreamed in the desolate day --
Uplifted Jesus, Prince of Peace forsworn --

By Siegfried Sassoon (1916)

Ron Boots, 'The Battle of the Somme'
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
At Carnoy
(July 3rd, 1916)


Down in the hollow there’s the whole Brigade
Camped in four groups: through twilight falling slow
I hear a sound of mouth-organs, ill-played,
And murmur of voices, gruff, confused, and low.
Crouched among thistle-tufts I’ve watched the glow
Of a blurred orange sunset flare and fade;
And I’m content. To-morrow we must go
To take some cursèd Wood ... O world God made!

By Siegfried Sassoon

Martin Sweeney, 'The Battle of the Somme'
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Before The Battle
(June 25th, 1916)


Music of whispering trees
Hushed by the broad-winged breeze
Where shaken water gleams;
And evening radiance falling
With reedy bird-notes calling.
O bear me safe through dark, you low-voiced streams.

I have no need to pray
That fear may pass away;
I scorn the growl and rumble of the fight
That summons me from cool
Silence of marsh and pool,
And yellow lilies islanded in light.
O river of stars and shadows, lead me through the night.

By Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Two Hundred Years From Now
[Inspired by a journal entry, June 3, 1916]


Trudging by Corbie Ridge one winter’s night,
(Unless old hearsay memories tricked his sight)
Along the pallid edge of the quiet sky
He watched a nosing lorry grinding on,
And straggling files of men; when these were gone,
A double limber and six mules went by,
Hauling the rations up through ruts and mud
To trench-lines digged two hundred years ago.
Then darkness hid them with a rainy scud,
And soon he saw the village lights below.

But when he’d told his tale, an old man said
That he’d seen soldiers pass along that hill;
‘Poor silent things, they were the English dead
Who came to fight in France and got their fill.’

By Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
A Letter Home
(To Robert Graves)


1

Here I’m sitting in the gloom
Of my quiet attic room.
France goes rolling all around,
Fledged with forest May has crowned.
And I puff my pipe, calm-hearted,
Thinking how the fighting started,
Wondering when we’ll ever end it,
Back to Hell with Kaiser send it,
Gag the noise, pack up and go,
Clockwork soldiers in a row.
I’ve got better things to do
Than to waste my time on you.

2

Robert, when I drowse to-night,
Skirting lawns of sleep to chase
Shifting dreams in mazy light,
Somewhere then I’ll see your face
Turning back to bid me follow
Where I wag my arms and hollo,
Over hedges hasting after
Crooked smile and baffling laughter.
Running tireless, floating, leaping,
Down your web-hung woods and valleys,
Garden glooms and hornbeam alleys,
Where the glowworm stars are peeping,
Till I find you, quiet as stone
On a hill-top all alone,
Staring outward, gravely pondering
Jumbled leagues of hillock-wandering.

3

You and I have walked together
In the starving winter weather.
We’ve been glad because we knew
Time’s too short and friends are few.
We’ve been sad because we missed
One whose yellow head was kissed
By the gods, who thought about him
Till they couldn’t do without him.
Now he’s here again; I’ve seen
Soldier David dressed in green,
Standing in a wood that swings
To the madrigal he sings.
He’s come back, all mirth and glory,
Like the prince in fairy story.
Winter called him far away;
Blossoms bring him home with May.

4

Well, I know you’ll swear it’s true
That you found him decked in blue
Striding up through morning-land
With a cloud on either hand.
Out in Wales, you’ll say, he marches,
Arm in arm with oaks and larches;
Hides all night in hilly nooks,
Laughs at dawn in tumbling brooks.
Yet, it’s certain, here he teaches
Outpost-schemes to groups of beeches.
And I’m sure, as here I stand,
That he shines through every land,
That he sings in every place
Where we’re thinking of his face.

5

Robert, there’s a war in France;
Everywhere men bang and blunder,
Sweat and swear and worship Chance,
Creep and blink through cannon thunder.
Rifles crack and bullets flick,
Sing and hum like hornet-swarms.
Bones are smashed and buried quick.
Yet, through stunning battle storms,
All the while I watch the spark
Lit to guide me; for I know
Dreams will triumph, though the dark
Scowls above me where I go.
You can hear me; you can mingle
Radiant folly with my jingle.
War’s a joke for me and you
While we know such dreams are true!

By Siegfried Sassoon
S.S. Flixécourt. May 1916.
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Last Meeting

I

Because the night was falling warm and still
Upon a golden day at April’s end,
I thought; I will go up the hill once more
To find the face of him that I have lost,
And speak with him before his ghost has flown
Far from the earth that might not keep him long.

So down the road I went, pausing to see
How slow the dusk drew on, and how the folk
Loitered about their doorways, well-content
With the fine weather and the waxing year.
The miller’s house, that glimmered with grey walls,
Turned me aside; and for a while I leaned
Along the tottering rail beside the bridge
To watch the dripping mill-wheel green with damp.
The miller peered at me with shadowed eyes
And pallid face: I could not hear his voice
For sound of the weir’s plunging. He was old.
His days went round with the unhurrying wheel.

Moving along the street, each side I saw
The humble, kindly folk in lamp-lit rooms;
Children at table; simple, homely wives;
Strong, grizzled men; and soldiers back from war,
Scaring the gaping elders with loud talk.

Soon all the jumbled roofs were down the hill,
And I was turning up the grassy lane
That goes to the big, empty house that stands
Above the town, half-hid by towering trees.
I looked below and saw the glinting lights:
I heard the treble cries of bustling life,
And mirth, and scolding; and the grind of wheels.
An engine whistled, piercing-shrill, and called
High echoes from the sombre slopes afar;
Then a long line of trucks began to move.

It was quite still; the columned chestnuts stood
Dark in their noble canopies of leaves.
I thought: ‘A little longer I’ll delay,
And then he’ll be more glad to hear my feet,
And with low laughter ask me why I’m late.
The place will be too dim to show his eyes,
But he will loom above me like a tree,
With lifted arms and body tall and strong.’

There stood the empty house; a ghostly hulk
Becalmed and huge, massed in the mantling dark,
As builders left it when quick-shattering war
Leapt upon France and called her men to fight.
Lightly along the terraces I trod,
Crunching the rubble till I found the door
That gaped in twilight, framing inward gloom.
An owl flew out from under the high eaves
To vanish secretly among the firs,
Where lofty boughs netted the gleam of stars.
I stumbled in; the dusty floors were strewn
With cumbering piles of planks and props and beams;
Tall windows gapped the walls; the place was free
To every searching gust and jousting gale;
But now they slept; I was afraid to speak,
And heavily the shadows crowded in.

I called him, once; then listened: nothing moved:
Only my thumping heart beat out the time.
Whispering his name, I groped from room to room.

Quite empty was that house; it could not hold
His human ghost, remembered in the love
That strove in vain to be companioned still.

II

Blindly I sought the woods that I had known )

By Siegfried Sassoon
Flixécourt. May 1916
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To The Warmongers

"I'm back again from hell
With loathsome thoughts to sell;
secrets of death to tell;
And horrors from the abyss.

Young faces bleared with blood
sucked down into the mud,
You shall hear things like this,
Till the tormented slain

Crawl round and once again,
With limbs that twist awry
Moan out their brutish pain,
As the fighters pass them by.

For you our battles shine
With triumph half-divine;
And the glory of the dead
Kindles in each proud eye.

But a curse is on my head,
That shall not be unsaid,
And the wounds in my heart are red,
For I have watched them die."

By Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Dug-Out

Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddled,
And one arm bent across your sullen, cold,
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you,
Deep-shadow’d from the candle’s guttering gold;
And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder;
Drowsy, you mumble and sigh and turn your head...
You are too young to fall asleep for ever;
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.


by Siegfried Sassoon

(This video is Siegfried Sassoon himself reading the poem.)
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Dragon and the Undying

All night the flares go up; the Dragon sings
And beats upon the dark with furious wings;
And, stung to rage by his own darting fires,
Reaches with grappling coils from town to town;
He lusts to break the loveliness of spires,
And hurls their martyred music toppling down.

Yet, though the slain are homeless as the breeze,
Vocal are they, like storm-bewilder’d seas.
Their faces are the fair, unshrouded night,
And planets are their eyes, their ageless dreams.
Tenderly stooping earthward from their height,
They wander in the dusk with chanting streams,
And they are dawn-lit trees, with arms up-flung,
To hail the burning heavens they left unsung.

By Siegfried Sassoon

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Poet as Hero

You've heard me, scornful, harsh, and discontented,
Mocking and loathing War: you've asked me why
Of my old, silly sweetness I've repented--
My ecstasies changed to an ugly cry.

You are aware that once I sought the Grail,
Riding in armour bright, serene and strong;
And it was told that through my infant wail
There rose immortal semblances of song.

But now I've said good-bye to Galahad,
And am no more the knight of dreams and show:
For lust and senseless hatred make me glad,
And my killed friends are with me where I go.
Wound for red wound I burn to smite their wrongs;
And there is absolution in my songs.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Lamentations

I found him in the guard-room at the Base.
From the blind darkness I had heard his crying
And blundered in. With puzzled, patient face
A sergeant watched him; it was no good trying
To stop it; for he howled and beat his chest.
And, all because his brother had gone west,
Raved at the bleeding war; his rampant grief
Moaned, shouted, sobbed, and choked, while he was kneeling
Half-naked on the floor. In my belief
Such men have lost all patriotic feeling.

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To My Brother

Give me your hand, my brother, search my face;
Look in these eyes lest I should think of shame;
For we have made an end of all things base.
We are returning by the road we came.

Your lot is with the ghosts of soldiers dead,
And I am in the field where men must fight.
But in the gloom I see your laurell’d head
And through your victory I shall win the light.

By Siegfried Sassoon

Hamo Watts Sassoon was killed November 1, 1915.
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Remorse

Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash,--each instant lit
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
"Could anything be worse than this?"--he wonders,
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees. . .
Our chaps were sticking 'em like pigs . . . "O hell!"
He thought--"there's things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds."

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Devotion to Duty

I was near the King that day. I saw him snatch
And briskly scan the G.H.Q. dispatch.
Thick-voiced, he read it out. (His face was grave.)
‘This officer advanced with the first wave,

‘And when our first objective had been gained,
‘(Though wounded twice), reorganized the line:
‘The spirit of the troops was by his fine
‘Example most effectively sustained.’

He gripped his beard; then closed his eyes and said,
‘Bathsheba must be warned that he is dead.
‘Send for her. I will be the first to tell
‘This wife how her heroic husband fell.’

by Siegfried Sassoon
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
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.

Now God is in the strife,
And I must seek Him there,
Where death outnumbers life,
And fury smites the air.

I walk the secret way
With anger in my brain.
O music through my clay,
When will you sound again?

by Siegfried Sassoon

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