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Battalion-Relief

Siegfried Sassoon 1886 (Matfield) – 1967 (Heytesbury)



‘FALL in! Now get a move on.’ (Curse the rain.)
We splash away along the straggling village,
Out to the flat rich country, green with June…
And sunset flares across wet crops and tillage,
Blazing with splendour-patches. (Harvest soon,
Up in the Line.) ‘Perhaps the War’ll be done
‘By Christmas-Day. Keep smiling then, old son.’

Here’s the Canal: it’s dusk; we cross the bridge.
‘Lead on there, by platoons.’ (The Line’s a-glare
With shell-fire through the poplars; distant rattle
Of rifles and machine-guns.) ‘Fritz is there!
‘Christ, ain’t it lively, Sergeant? Is’t a battle?’
More rain: the lightning blinks, and thunder rumbles.
‘There’s over-head artillery!’ some chap grumbles.

What’s all this mob at the cross-roads? Where are the guides?…
‘Lead on with number One.’ And off they go.
‘Three minute intervals.’ (Poor blundering files,
Sweating and blindly burdened; who’s to know
If death will catch them in those two dark miles?)
More rain. ‘Lead on, Head-quarters.’ (That’s the lot.)
‘Who’s that?… Oh, Sergeant-Major, don’t get shot!
‘And tell me, have we won this war or not?’

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE, MC was an eminent English poet, writer, and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's view, were responsible for a jingoism-fuelled war. He later won acclaim for his prose work, notably his three-volume fictionalised autobiography, collectively known as the "Sherston trilogy". more…

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