Sunday, 4 November 2007

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.

Siegfried Sassoon
This poem was written by a soldier in the First World War, so it's likely to be an adaptation of a true event which Sassoon either witnessed or, more likely, heard about. The poem presents a rather angry attack on the "smug-faced" society which cheered the soldiers without actually going to war themselves. Sassoon partially blames these crowds for the death of the boy, which has condemned him to a "hell where youth and laughter go". Youth and laughter are both reasons to live, yet the boy feels he must take his own life to escape the "glum" trenches.

2 comments:

Don said...

I agree. Good comments. This is a good poem. I like particualrly 'sneak home' as it really conveys the poets attitude. It suggests that those who cheer them on should be guilty and ashamed. A great use of poetic brevity to convey an emotion.

Menora said...

Thanks for writing this.