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ANZAC Day 2009:Siegfried Sassoon’s poem The Troops

19/04/2009

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PRELUDE: THE TROOPS

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down
The stale despair of night, must now renew
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.

Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky
That hastens over them where they endure
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.

O my brave brown companions, when your souls
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,
Death will stand grieving in that field of war
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;
The unreturning army that was youth;
The legions who have suffered and are dust.

Siegfried Sasson – from Counter Attack and Other  Poems

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3 Comments
  1. 19/04/2009 23:11

    I would not disagree, but he is one of the group of so called war poets

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  2. Ed Snack permalink
    19/04/2009 22:48

    As I am sure you agree (after all we have read many of the same authors on this) Sasson, as interesting and seemingly relevant a poet as he is, is not very representative of the general run of the people who were engaged in WW1. I recall finding his memoirs interesting but unsatisfying.

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