Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Siegfried Sassoon

If you haven't taken a look at the sidebar to our blog there really is a load of information there. I clicked on the Guardian Books Page under Our Links and immediately spotted the news that Siegfried Sassoon's manuscripts have gone online.

I was first introduced to Sassoon through the fiction of Pat Barker in her wonderful trilogy of World War I: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road which won the Booker Prize. Sassoon; another wartime poet, Wilfred Owen; and psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers are all characters in Barker's fictionalized account of the period. It is always worthwhile to be reminded of who these individuals were fighting in the trenches, especially on Veteran's Day. It is particularly important that these men's experiences and reflections are left to us in their poetry enhancing our study of the literature of the period and our knowledge of warfare.

The following words were written by Sassoon in 1917 in his "declaration against the war" and are well worth another reading.

"I believe that this war, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest," he wrote. "I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise."

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