16. Editorial Impressions by Siegfried Sassoon
HE seemed so certain ‘all was going well’,
As he discussed the glorious time he’d had
While visiting the trenches.
‘One can tell
You’ve gathered big impressions!’ grinned the lad
Who’d been severely wounded in the back
In some wiped-out impossible Attack.
‘Impressions? Yes, most vivid! I am writing
A little book called Europe on the Rack,
Based on notes made while witnessing the fighting.
I hope I’ve caught the feeling of “the Line”,
And the amazing spirit of the troops.
By Jove, those flying-chaps of ours are fine!
I watched one daring beggar looping loops,
Soaring and diving like some bird of prey.
And through it all I felt that splendour shine
Which makes us win.’
The soldier sipped his wine.
‘Ah, yes, but it’s the Press that leads the way!’
18. Glory of Women by Siegfried Sassoon
YOU love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in a mentionable place.
You worship decorations; you believe
That chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.
You make us shells. You listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.
You crown our distant ardours while we fight,
And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.
You can’t believe that British troops ‘retire’
When hell’s last horror breaks them, and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses—blind with blood.
O German mother dreaming by the fire,
While you are knitting socks to send your son
His face is trodden deeper in the mud.
“The door to the airplane opened, and the four women were so terrified they were unable to cry out.” ~ The Blackbirds by Eric Jerome Dickey
34. Remorse by Siegfried Sassoon
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.’
“I am brushing Daisy’s hair at the kitchen table when the front door crashes open.”
~The Girl Before by Rena Olsen
26. Banishment by Siegfried Sassoon
I AM banished from the patient men who fight
They smote my heart to pity, built my pride.
Shoulder to aching shoulder, side by side,
They trudged away from life’s broad wealds of light.
Their wrongs were mine; and ever in my sight
They went arrayed in honour. But they died,—
Not one by one: and mutinous I cried
To those who sent them out into the night.
The darkness tells how vainly I have striven
To free them from the pit where they must dwell
In outcast gloom convulsed and jagged and riven
By grappling guns. Love drove me to rebel.
Love drives me back to grope with them through hell;
And in their tortured eyes I stand forgiven.
188. Ami Green (Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River Anthology)
NOT “a youth with hoary head and haggard eye,”
But an old man with a smooth skin
And black hair!
I had the face of a boy as long as I lived,
And for years a soul that was stiff and bent,
In a world which saw me just as a jest,
To be hailed familiarly when it chose,
And loaded up as a man when it chose,
Being neither man nor boy.
In truth it was soul as well as body
Which never matured, and I say to you
That the much-sought prize of eternal youth
Is just arrested growth.