Journal For Poetry Challenge#7 04/03/2012

SUICIDE IN THE TRENCHES

By Siegfried Sassoon

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 cramps 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.

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Siegfried Sassoon was born into a wealthy Jewish family on  8th September 1886 in Matfield Kent and died 1st September 1967 one week before his 81st Birthday he was living in Somerset. He died of stomach cancer.                                 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 manifestation of his grief, when he still believed that the Germans were entirely to blame). As Paul Fussell said: “now he unleashed a talent for irony and satire and contumely that had been sleeping all during his pastoral youth.” Sassoon also showed his innocence by going public with his protest against the war (as he grew to see that insensitive political leadership was the greater enemy than the Germans). Luckily, his friend and fellow poet Robert Graves convinced the review board that Sassoon was suffering from shell-shock and he was sent instead to the military hospital at Craiglockhart where he met and influenced Wilfred Owen.

Siegfried Sassoon was decorated for bravery on the Western Front. He became one of the leading poets of the First World War.He was a key figure in the study of the poetry of the Great War: he influenced and mentored the then unknown Wilfred Owen; he spent thirty years reflecting on the war through his memoirs; and at last he found peace in his religious faith. Some critics found his later poetry lacking in comparison to his war poems. Sassoon, identifying with Herbert and Vaughan, recognized and understood this: “my development has been entirely consistent and in character” he answered, “almost all of them have ignored the fact that I am a religious poet.”            ….. http://www.poemhunter.com/siegfried-sassoon/biography/

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Another poem that wrenched my heart and flooded my brain with images of war. The more I read the more horrors I discover.This is pure and simply the tale of a of a young country lad ( it could so easily of been Siegfried himself.) who was taken from his hard but happy rural life and thrown into trench warfare. Noise , blood, mud, smells, dead bodies, rats, lice, fear horror. Would you like to eat , sleep drink , urinate , defecate all in the same space???

I am sure that many more frightened boys committed suicide just because they could not stand the nightmare they had landed in. Again there is nothing more that I can say the poem has said it all. I am also sure that that men and women may well have done the same in the more recent wars too.

Lest we forget.

Poetry Challenge #7 is to create a journal of links and your reactions to poems by established (living or dead poets.) Details are here.  Example response is here. Mr. Linky for Challenge #7 is directly below:

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