Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Saturday, November 7, 1998 Published at 04:54 GMT


Sassoon poem discovered

The front line: Sassoon was appalled by the carnage

A previously-unknown war poem by Siegfried Sassoon, marking the start of his revulsion at World War I, has been unearthed.

World War 1:Special Section

The 14-line poem, To a Citizen-Soldier, was found by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, the poet's biographer, in papers belonging to Sassoon's earliest publisher, Edward Dent, which are held at Cambridge University Library.

Sassoon wrote the poem in the days following the death on 18 March 1916 of David Thomas, a younger fellow-officer with whom he had fallen in love.

[ image: Sassoon: Reassessment of his career?]
Sassoon: Reassessment of his career?
It also followed shortly after the death in Gallipoli of the poet's younger brother, Hamo.

The poem, published for the first time in the Daily Telegraph, also followed the start of conscription and the beginning of Sassoon's experiences in a front-line trench.

In the poem, Sassoon displays his anger at the death of his beloved friend and berates a conscript - known as a "citizen-soldier" - for moaning about conditions on the Western Front:

"For such as you there is One end, one bias; scatheless to slip back To frowsty parlours of familiar bliss, And there forget these writhings on the rack, To boast and wrangle, loaf and sleep and kiss And grow ignobly senile, gorged and slack."

Literary experts say the scorn for the conscript in the poem may have embarrassed Sassoon and could explain why he never published it.

They also predict the discovery will lead to a reassessment of the poet's career.

Miss Moorcroft Wilson said: "Nobody would make any arguments for this being a great poem, but it is historically very significant.

"I think this poem is very twisted and angry and also shows him as an awful snob."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

06 Nov 98 | UK
Historic honour for war deserters

05 Nov 98 | World War I
'In Flanders fields the poppies blow...'

02 Feb 98 | UK
War records of Sassoon, Lawrence released

Internet Links

Siegfried Sassoon poems

Cambridge University Library

World War I Document Archive

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online