English Literature
Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

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Siegfried Sassoon: The Life, War, and Poetry of a Soldier and Poet

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) was a notable English soldier and poet whose works gained recognition during World War I. His poetry was characterized by a critical and angry tone towards those responsible for the war. Let's delve deeper into the life and works of Siegfried Sassoon.

The Life of Siegfried Sassoon

Before exploring his poetry, let's first take a look at the life of Siegfried Sassoon.

Early Years

Sassoon was born on September 8, 1886, in Matfield, Kent. His mother was of Anglo-Catholic background, and his father was of Jewish descent. He attended New Beacon School and Marlborough College and later studied law at Clare College, Cambridge. However, he left without obtaining a degree to focus on his writing. In 1906, he published his first volume of poetry.

The Start of War

In 1914, the outbreak of World War I prompted Sassoon to join the military. He lost his younger brother during the Gallipoli Campaign and gained a reputation for his bravery, often regarded as reckless or suicidal. This led to his nickname, "Mad Jack." In 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for his courage.

Returning Home

In 1917, Sassoon was wounded and sent back home to recover. During this time, he reflected on his war experiences and expressed his grievances towards the war and those in power. His criticism was directed towards both military authorities and the government for the suffering of soldiers. His bold declaration, "Finished with the War: A Soldier's Declaration," was read in parliament, leading to a court-martial for being a conscientious objector. However, his friend and fellow writer, Robert Graves, intervened and cited shell-shock (now known as PTSD) as the reason for Sassoon's protest, sparing him from execution.

Sassoon was then sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment, where he met fellow soldier and poet, Wilfred Owen. Under Sassoon's mentorship and influence, Owen wrote two of his most famous poems, "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth." They both encouraged each other's creativity and became close friends.

Back to the Front

Despite his previous objections, Sassoon returned to the front in 1918. After the war, he continued to write and published The George Sherston Trilogy Series in 1928. The trilogy follows the journey of protagonist George Sherston, from enlisting in the war to facing the harsh realities and loss of innocence that came with it.


In 1933, Sassoon married Hester Gatty and had a son, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1945. In 1957, he converted to Catholicism and continued his writing career until his death from stomach cancer on September 1, 1967. He was buried in Mells, Somerset, in the churchyard of St. Andrews Church.

Siegfried Sassoon's Poetry

Now let's turn our attention to Sassoon's renowned war poetry.

Siegfried Sassoon: The War Poet Who Challenged the Norms

Siegfried Sassoon's poems, including 'Glory of Women', 'The Hero', 'The General' and 'The Rear Guard', were powerful critiques of the war and its propaganda. In his works, Sassoon condemned the misguided attitudes towards war and the blind patriotism that led to countless deaths.

The poem 'Glory of Women' uses a sarcastic tone to mock the propaganda and misguided patriotism surrounding war. Sassoon criticizes the attitudes of those at home towards soldiers, particularly towards women. The poem highlights the futility of war and its violent consequences.

Sassoon also explores this theme in 'The Hero', where he depicts the misplaced and idealized notions of honor and bravery that proved futile in the face of numerous deaths. The poem exposes the harsh reality of loss amidst the glorification of war.

In 'The General', Sassoon directly criticizes the military authority during World War I. He uses sarcasm to portray the way in which soldiers were sent to their deaths on the front line by those of higher rank, who often saw little or no action themselves.

Meanwhile, 'The Rear Guard' uses vivid imagery to illustrate the horrors of war. The poem follows a soldier's journey and his encounter with a dead soldier, highlighting the senseless loss of life in war.

Siegfried Sassoon: Reflections of War and Society

Siegfried Sassoon, a prominent English soldier, author, and poet, is remembered for his powerful and thought-provoking works that highlight the devastating consequences of war. His works, which include both prose and poetry, delve into anti-war sentiments and criticize the ignorance of military authorities, the government, and those at home.

  • War - Sassoon's pieces, especially his poems, serve as a strong anti-war message, revealing the horrors of World War I and the struggles faced by soldiers on the front line.
  • Death - The loss of soldiers and the senseless sacrifices orchestrated by those in positions of power are recurring themes in Sassoon's works.
  • Anger/Sarcasm - Through the use of these powerful emotions, Sassoon condemns the actions of military authorities, the government, and those who turned a blind eye to the suffering of soldiers.
  • Compassion - Sassoon displays empathy towards his fellow soldiers, shedding light on their experiences and giving voice to their struggles.
  • Futility - The futility of war and the unjustifiable sacrifices of soldiers are prevalent themes in Sassoon's works, highlighting the devastating consequences of conflict.
  • Home/Front Line - Sassoon exposes the propaganda used to recruit young men for war and criticizes the ignorance of those at home about the true cost of conflict.

The Life and Legacy of Siegfried Sassoon

Born in Matfield, Kent in 1886, Siegfried Sassoon was an English soldier who joined the army in 1915. His daring and often reckless acts of bravery earned him recognition, but it was his writings that truly left a lasting impact. Sassoon passed away on September 1st, 1967, after battling stomach cancer and was laid to rest in Mells, Somerset. However, his legacy continues to live on through his works, which offer poignant reflections on war and society.

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