Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, who lived between 1886 and 1967, was an Englsih poet, writer, and soldier. Because of his poetry, which described the horrors of the trenches, he became on of the leading poets of the First World War. Many of his poems also called into question the role of politicians in extending wars at the expense of and exploitation of soldiers.
Sassoon became a focal point for dissent within armed forces when he made a protest against the continuation of the war in his “Soldier’s Declaration” of 1917. After that, he got sent to a military psychiatric hospital where he met Wilfried Owen, who greatly influenced him.
Sassoon later won acclaim for his work, notably his autobiography, known as the “Sherston Trilogy”. Having matured greatly as a result of his military service, continued to seek emotional fulfilment, initially in a succession of love affairs with men. To many peoples surprise, he then married Hester Gatty – this led to the birth of a child.
However, the marriage was broken down after the Second World War, Sassoon apparently unable to find a compromise between the solitude he enjoyed and the companionship he craved. He then was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1951 and towards the end of his life, he converted to Roman Catholicism.
Siegfried Sassoon died one week before his 81st birthday.
In 1985, Sassoon was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.
Examples of the writings of Sassoon – words that have a timelessness to them and certainly speak to the times we live in:
“I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.”
“I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.”
So for today, take a moment to reflect on one of Sassoon’s poems:
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
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.