Aftermath, by Siegfried Sassoon

I think it is appropriate to post this poem by Siegfried Sassoon this Remembrance Sunday. I think it was composed sometime in 1919 and it appears in a collection published in 1920 with the same title as the poem. I think its message is clear, but it is also notable for its unusual metrical structure; it’s basically iambic but each line ends with a succession of three stressed syllables that causes the iambic rhythm to stumble. It’s a device used in classical Greek and Roman poetry to emphasize pain or discomfort on the one hand or struggle and determination on the other. Here it seems to convey both.

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

by Siegfried Sassoon (1896-1967)

2 Responses to “Aftermath, by Siegfried Sassoon”

  1. A Theory of Everything Occam would be proud of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: