Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.
I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
“For his generation, the poetry and career of Siegfried Sassoon were emblematic of the ways in which the secure truths of Western civilization were destroyed in the hopeless foxholes of the First World War. It is difficult to imagine the works of Virginia Woolf or Hemingway or Faulkner existing without him. . . .” – Graham Christian, The Boston Phoenix