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The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon (Dodo Press) [Paperback]

Siegfried Sassoon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 July 2007
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886-1967) who wrote under the pseudonyms Pinchbeck Lyre, Sigma Sashun and George Sherston was an English poet and author. He became known as a writer of satirical anti-war verse during World War I, but later won acclaim for his prose work. Sassoon was born in the village of Matfield, Kent, to a Jewish father and a Protestant English mother. He studied both law and history from 1905 to 1907 however, he dropped out of university without a degree and spent the next few years hunting, playing cricket, and privately publishing a few volumes of not very highly acclaimed poetry. Sassoon joined the military just as the threat of World War I was realised. He soon became horrified by the realities of war, and the tone of his writing changed completely. Sassoon's periods of duty on the Western Front were marked by exceptionally brave actions. The war had brought Sassoon into contact with men from less advantaged backgrounds, and he had developed Socialist sympathies. Amongst his famous works are The Daffodil Murderer (1913), The Old Huntsman (1917), Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918), Picture-Show (1919) and The War Poems (1919).

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Product details

  • Paperback: 84 pages
  • Publisher: Dodo Press (13 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1406538701
  • ISBN-13: 978-1406538700
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 0.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 315,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Sassoon, who lived through Word War One and who died in 1967, was, as the introduction to this book tells us, irritated in his later years at always being thought of as a "war poet". Understandable perhaps from the point of view of the poet: readers on the other hand might wish to demur. The poems gathered here and chronologically ordered, thereby tracing the course of the war, are an extraordinary testimony to the almost unimaginable experiences of a combatant in that bitter conflict. Moving from the patriotic optimism of the first few poems (" ... fighting for our freedom, we are free") to the anguish and anger of the later work (where "hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists / Flounders in mud ... "), there comes a point when the reality of trench-warfare and its aftershocks move beyond comprehension: Sassoon knows this, and it becomes a powerful element in his art. As a book, the images have a cumulative relentlessness that make it almost impossible to read more than a few poems in one sitting.

Unlike the avant-garde experiments developing in Europe in the first decades of this century, Sassoon's verse is formally conservative--but this was perhaps necessary, for as one reads the poems, one feels that the form, the classically inflected tropes, the metre and rhyme, apart from ironising the rhetoric of glory and battle were necessary techniques for containing the emotion (and indeed, a tone of barely controlled irony may have been the only means by which these angry observations would have been considered publishable at the time). When Sassoon's line begins to fragment, as it does in several of the later poems, it is under the extreme pressure to express the inexpressible. Compassion and sympathy are omnipresent here, in their full etymological sense of suffering with or alongside others--something the higher echelons of command (those " ... old men who died / Slow, natural deaths--old men with ugly souls") were never able or willing to contemplate. But Sassoon intuited the future of warfare, could sense that this was not "the war to end all wars": the mock-religious invocation of the final poem prefigures the vicious euphemisms of more recent conflicts: "Grant us the power to prove, by poison gases, / The needlessness of shedding human blood." Sassoon's bile-black irony signals a deep-felt pessimism: it was with good reason. --Burhan Tufail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"In later years, when Siegfried Sassoon had written much else in prose and verse, he was annoyed at always being referred to simply as a war poet, but it was the Great War that turned him into a poet of international fame, and I feel sure that his ghost will forgive me for thus bringing together these magnificently scarifying poems."--Rupert Hart-Davis, from his Introduction
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must Read 3 Sep 2007
I did not care for the items we had to read at school that is until I came across Siegfried Sassoon. He explains clearly with passion and experance what WAR truely is. In an age of mass media and what appears to be new wars every other day, he so the true cost of war not in pound or dollors.
To read his work even one at two of his poems will show you the horrors of war better than any Hollywood movie.
Reading his work is like talking to the man, and he has given you excess to every private though in him . He is a true great.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many parallels to modern day 7 Nov 2009
I enjoyed reading this book, despite not generally reading much poetry unless forced. I also liked the footnotes which gave brief autobiographical notes, giving an insight into the timing and mood of the author.

What particulary stood out for me was the parallels to the modern experience of soldiers and attitudes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only did the poems tell of the true horrors of war, they also reflected the cold indifference and misunderstanding of civilians back home. My favorite is "Hero" which encapsulates a number of these themes.

I think it a good book - the 4 stars reflects only that, in this genre, I prefer Owen and Brooke.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite War Poet 29 Dec 2009
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Siegfried Sassoon was a gentleman of leisure who wanted to be a poet, and indeed he did have a limited success before the outbreak of World War 1. It is however his war poetry that made him become noticed and has gained him legions of fans since. Nowadays we are all accustomed to the horrors of war, after all we can see it virtually any day on the news, but back in World War 1 the propaganda machine was in heavy use. The war would all be over by Christmas, we were winning, indeed people may have been led into believing that it was all a slightly dangerous game of football, where you may get killed. Sassoon upset the Establishment by depicting the real horrors of war and they tried to supress what he wrote. Sassoon started out quite optimistic but over the war period he obviously became disillusioned, and you see that subtle shift coming through in what he wrote.

Sassoon was a great friend of Robert Graves, who did have an influence on what Sassoon wrote, rather like how Sassoon had an effect on Wilfred Owen. Although Sassoon wrote in a more traditional style, indeed this is probably better than a more modernist approach and is more powerful when it comes to war he did have an influence on the Modernist Movement in that he described the gritty and hard truth.

To me Sassoon brings the life in the trenches to life, and he writes to the common man, no arty-farty nonsense here. He writes what we can all feel and understand and to my mind is a great help if you are studying that period in history. And lest we forget, the man was a hero himself, after all he was awarded the Military Cross. So, even if you don't normally read poetry but are interested in the First World War then I would strongly urge you to read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about war 8 April 2011
It maybe that there are better WW1 poets, but Sassoon is for me the most modern, the one who speaks most clearly to us. His poems are more direct, less "poetic" than those of his contemporaries, and his blistering anger controlled by a caustic wit cuts right through the manners of his age to the human truth of war. He was a man full of contradictions a war hero who became a pacifist, a deeply religious man, and a homosexual, a literary man who was also a keen sportsman, and some of the internal conflicts these caused are reflected in the poetry here, but in short for me he makes the reality of WW1 more vivid than any other poet. Terrific stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the war poems 7 Jan 2010
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the horrors of ww1 as seen thru the poems of siegfried sassoon. also recommended for reading are the poems of wilfred owen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars sassoon is a great poet. 8 July 2014
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What can one say...sassoon is a great poet .
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5.0 out of 5 stars An old favourite 30 May 2014
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Bought to replace my copy that was over 30 years old and falling apart, much loved and read a lovely bedtime read
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5.0 out of 5 stars his thoughts while in WWI 22 May 2014
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At that . moment when war raged around him, Sassoon wrote poems which bring it close to us. A good opportunity to remind
ourselves of how ghastly it was. Along with the poems of Wilfrid Owen, we step briefly into the squelchy mud and horrific sights,
breathe the gas and hope to survive...
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