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


UK

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."



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Siegfried Sassoon poems

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