Essay about war poems by Siegfried Sassoon.
War Poems by Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon writes poems based on his impression and firsthand experience of war. All of his poems follow the theme of war and relate to the negative effects of war experiences. The theme of his poems allows the reader to appreciate and show gratitude and thanks to the soldiers who fought for their country. His poems are written in a graphic manner and describe what it was like during the war and the effects it had on a person’s mental health. The style of writing clearly shows the reader that a lot of psychological damage was experienced by many soldiers. Sassoon’s writing appears in great contrast to the term the “Great war". Sassoon tends to write about views associated with religion and government issues.
“The hero” by Siegfried Sassoon emphasises the tragedies of war. The officer finds himself lying to make the boy’s mother feel proud of her dead son. He wants to leave her with memories which she would be proud. She was distraught but was also filled with a sense of pride because of the information given to her portraying son to be a hero. “He’d told the poor old dear some gallant lies, That she would nourish all her days, no doubt”. (lines 8 and 9 The Hero). He was clearly afraid and some would see that as cowardly. Jack “had panicked down the trench that night....tried to get sent home”. (line 14 and 16 The Hero). Despite the fact, the officer wanted the soldiers mother to rest assured that her son had died a hero, hence the name of the poem. The last line "...that lonely woman with white hair", suggests that the officer saw the boy’s mother as old and lonely and this could be one reason why he wanted her to spend her last days thinking of her son as a hero.
In the poem “suicide in the trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon, the young soldier appeared to be care free with his life. He simply did not appear to have a care in the world “ who grinned at life in empty joy" (line 2 Suicide in the trenches). In comparison to “the Hero”, this is a tragic poem of a different nature as the soldier commits suicide rather than dying of much pain and many wounds.
It is interesting how civilian crowds seem enthusiastic about the war and do not want the war to come to an end and the psychological damage of the soldiers goes unnoticed. It is also interesting to see how a young soldier without a care in the world must have been affected in order to take his own life. The trench war brought many miseries which could have led this young soldier to suicide. It was winter which paints a cold picture and it was "cowed and glum" (line 5 Suicide in the trenches), with shell bursts and "lice and lack of rum" (line 6 Suicide in the trenches). This emphasises how depressing the atmosphere was. It was on one hand tragic what had happened but it was perhaps not an unusual thing to happen. The trenches may have led many to commit suicide, it could have been a common occurrence. The civilians would have perhaps thought that the young soldier was a coward and weak for taking his own life which is perhaps another reason why "no one spoke of him again" (line 8).
It would not normally be expected to find the words hell, youth and laughter used on the same line in a poem but this possibly reinforces a soldiers attitude towards life during times of war. The words “youth” and “laughter” appear so impressive beside the word “hell”.
Sassoon’s poems differ quite a lot from other poets style of writing even when they are both based around the theme of war. When comparing most of Sassoon’s poems to Rupert Brookes “the Soldier” it demonstrates how Sassoon’s style of writing is more graphic and quite gory in comparison to Brooke. Brookes poem almost paints a victorious picture of war and gives the reader a feeling of peace. However Sassoon does not in any way give the reader a sense of peace. Robert Graves “A dead Boche” follows the same attitude towards war as Siegfried Sassoon although Graves refers to the war as a song which does have similarities with Brooks style of writing, “To you who’d read my songs of war” (line 1 A dead Boche by Robert Graves).
The poem that I thought was most striking was “suicide in the trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon’s use of language throughout the poem created a clear image of the soldiers experience of the war. Different poets express their thoughts on the war in a variety of ways.