Thursday, September 08, 2011

Happy Birthday, Siegfried

Sassoon in uniform
Today in Manfield, Kent, England, in 1886 Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was born. One of the great WWI poets, Sassoon eventually rejected the war and refused to return to the front after a convalescent leave, sending a manifesto to Parliament. Refusing to court-martial such a decorated hero and symbol, the Army declared him "unfit for duty" and sent him to a war hospital, to be treated for shell shock. After the war he led a restless life, during which he continued to write, poems and prose both.



A Poplar and the Moon


There stood a Poplar, tall and straight;
The fair, round Moon, uprisen late,
Made the long shadow on the grass
A ghostly bridge ’twixt heaven and me.
But May, with slumbrous nights, must pass;
And blustering winds will strip the tree.
And I’ve no magic to express
The moment of that loveliness;
So from these words you’ll never guess
The stars and lilies I could see.


Falling Asleep

Voices moving about in the quiet house:
Thud of feet and a muffled shutting of doors:
Everyone yawning. Only the clocks are alert.

Out in the night there’s autumn-smelling gloom
Crowded with whispering trees; across the park
A hollow cry of hounds like lonely bells:
And I know that the clouds are moving across the moon;
The low, red, rising moon. Now herons call
And wrangle by their pool; and hooting owls
Sail from the wood above pale stooks of oats.

Waiting for sleep, I drift from thoughts like these;
And where to-day was dream-like, build my dreams.
Music ... there was a bright white room below,
And someone singing a song about a soldier,
One hour, two hours ago: and soon the song
Will be ‘last night’: but now the beauty swings
Across my brain, ghost of remembered chords
Which still can make such radiance in my dream
That I can watch the marching of my soldiers,
And count their faces; faces; sunlit faces.

Falling asleep ... the herons, and the hounds....
September in the darkness; and the world
I’ve known; all fading past me into peace.


(more of his poems here)

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