He was born in a Jewish family in 1886. His reactions against war were violent and expressed them through irony in his poems. Sassoon also protested publicly against war. He wrote a Declaration against the War and read it in the House of Commons: “I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. 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. I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. 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.”
Sassoon’s poems are collected in The Hold Huntsman and in Counter-Attack. He denounces the political errors and the sacrifice of the soldiers.
In a documentary manner he describes the physical horror of the war through anger and satire. What he achieved was not compassion, but the spontaneity of shocking and realistic detail. He was a pacifist.
Suicide in the trenches
Sassoon wrote this poem during his service in the First World War. In this poem, he expresses anti-war sentiments.
The protagonist of this poem is a young soldier who lived a normal and happy life before joining the war. One day he decides to kill himself, and no one cared. The horrors of the war caused his breakdown. In the last stanza, the poet is addressing to people who support war and his tone is angry against war officers and the government.
This poem is divided into three stanzas (three quatrains). There are rhyming couplets. The rhyme scheme is AA-BB. Enjambments (run-on-line) are used to draw the reader’s attention away from the rhyme scheme. The poet uses the metaphor “where youth and laughter go” to refer to the war. In the last two final lines of the poem, the poet is angry against people who join military parades suggesting them to go back home because they were lucky not to see the real evils of the war.
Alliterations: simple, soldier (l. 1) - slept, soundly (l. 3) ; whistled - with (l. 4); lice – lack (l. 6); bullet – brain (l. 7); who – when (l. 10).
Run on line: l. 9 – 10; l. 1 – 12
Assonnances: grimed in (l. 2)
Suicide in the trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go