Siegfried Sassoon is one of the few World War I poets to survive the war.
“Siegfried Sassoon is best remembered for his angry and compassionate poems of the First World War, which brought him public and critical acclaim,” the Poetry Foundation says. “Avoiding the sentimentality and jingoism of many war poets, Sassoon wrote of the horror and brutality of trench warfare and contemptuously satirized generals, politicians, and churchmen for their incompetence and blind support of the war.”
Born Sept. 8, 1886 in Kent, Great Britain, Sassoon’s parents separated when he was young, and his father died when he was nine. Nevertheless, Sassoon lived comfortably and was educated.
He was first published in 1906.
World War I
Sassoon joined the army days after war was declared. He broke his arm in 1915, and this injury kept him from the front for months.
Sassoon’s bravery earned him the Military Cross. By 1917, however, he was fed up with the war and refused to return to service. He was hospitalized for shell shock, but had a friend not intervened, he would have been court martialed. He returned to service in 1918.
He was friends with poets Rupert Graves, whom he met in France and who saved him from the court martial, and Wilfred Owen, whom he met at a convalescent hospital. Sassoon and Graves discussed and critiqued each others’ work.
Sassoon wrote scenes of vivid war imagery, focusing on the horrors around him. His best known poems include “To Any Dead Officer,” “Counter Attack,” “The One-Legged Man,” “The General” and “Repression of War Experience.”
On Sept. 1, 1967, Sassoon died of cancer. His mental scars lasted a lifetime, and he spent much of his post-war life either in seclusion or lecturing on pacifism.
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Updated: 22 October 2020
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