Siegfried Sassoon

A Study of the War Poetry

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About the Book

Though Siegfried Sassoon would argue the point throughout his life, most critics regard his war poetry, written during World War I, as the best of his writings. Like many of his artistic contemporaries, Sassoon embraced the “Great War for Civilization” with great fervor, and it was this passion that he brought to his earliest writings about the war. “Absolution,” his first war poem, published in 1915, summed up his feelings: “fighting for our freedom, we are free.”
Fighting on the frontlines, Sassoon soon came to the conviction that his war for civilization was anything but civilized. And thus his writings took on a new tone, courageously denouncing a conflict that was no longer about “defense and liberation” but was for “aggression and conquest.” Through primary documents and extensive research, the current work provides critical analyses of Sassoon’s war poetry. Detailed examinations of each of the so-called trench poems show how the poet and his poetry were transformed through his wartime experiences and give the rationale for the critical consensus that the Sassoon canon is among the most significant in the literature of modern warfare.

About the Author(s)

Patrick Campbell divides his time between Thailand and England.

Bibliographic Details

Patrick Campbell
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 237
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007 [1999]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3244-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1
Abbreviations      7

Part One
Chapter 1: Introduction      11
Chapter 2: The Progress of the Poet      23
Chapter 3: Frail Women and Glorious Boys      31
Chapter 4: “O World God Made!” Pacifism, Pantheism, Self-Sacrifice      42
Chapter 5: Working Methods and Formal Concerns      49
Chapter 6: Literary Influences      61
Chapter 7: The Poetic Achievement      76

Part Two
Chapter 8: 1915–1916: “War Is Our Scourge; Yet War Has Made Us Wise”      87
Chapter 9: “Goodbye to Galahad”: The Somme and Its Aftermath      109
Chapter 10: “Unmasking the Ugly Face of Mars”: August 1916 to April 1917      122
Chapter 11: “When Will It Stop?” May 1917 to January 1918      148
Chapter 12: “Waiting for the End, Boys”: January 1918 to March 1919      176

Appendix: Diary Poems      207
Select Bibliography      219
Index      223

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommended”—Choice
  • “Carefully detailed textual analysis”—AB Bookman’s Weekly
  • “Well researched”—TLS
  • “Helps provide rich detail to understanding and appreciating some of the poet’s remarkable verse. Campbell’s scholarly apparatuses are both exhaustive and helpful”—Catholic Library World
  • “Uncovered works are examined with new testimonies and diaries”—The Word Magazine.