The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 38 pages of information about The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon.


We’d gained our first objective hours before
While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,
Pallid, unshaved and thirsty, blind with smoke. 
Things seemed all right at first.  We held their line,
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench. 
The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs
High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps
And trunks, face downward in the sucking mud,
Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled;
And naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair,
Bulged, clotted heads, slept in the plastering slime. 
And then the rain began,—­the jolly old rain!

A yawning soldier knelt against the bank,
Staring across the morning blear with fog;
He wondered when the Allemands would get busy;
And then, of course, they started with five-nines
Traversing, sure as fate, and never a dud. 
Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst
Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,
While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.

He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,
Sick for escape,—­loathing the strangled horror
And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.

An officer came blundering down the trench: 
“Stand-to and man the fire-step!” On he went.... 
Gasping and bawling, “Fire-step ... counter-attack!”
Then the haze lifted.  Bombing on the right
Down the old sap:  machine-guns on the left;
And stumbling figures looming out in front. 
“O Christ, they’re coming at us!” Bullets spat,
And he remembered his rifle ... rapid fire ... 
And started blazing wildly ... then a bang
Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out
To grunt and wriggle:  none heeded him; he choked
And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom,
Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans.... 
Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death.  The counter-attack had failed.


     “The effect of our bombardment was terrific.  One man told me
     he had never seen so many dead before.”

     War Correspondent.

He’d never seen so many dead before.
They sprawled in yellow daylight while he swore
And gasped and lugged his everlasting load
Of bombs along what once had been a road.
How peaceful are the dead.
Who put that silly gag in some one’s head?

He’d never seen so many dead before.
The lilting words danced up and down his brain,
While corpses jumped and capered in the rain. 
No, no; he wouldn’t count them any more.... 
The dead have done with pain: 
They’ve choked; they can’t come back to life again.

When Dick was killed last week he looked like that,
Flapping along the fire-step like a fish,
After the blazing crump had knocked him flat....
How many dead?  As many as ever you wish. 
Don’t count ’em; they’re too many. 
Who’ll buy my nice fresh corpses, two a penny?

Project Gutenberg
The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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