Poetry: Siegfried Sassoon’s Great ones

It’s quite possible that by the end of the year we will all be sick of poetry – but while we can still appreciate it I thought I’d post one of the most powerful war poems by Siegfried Sassoon “To The Great Ones” (later “Great Men”) that I always think of when I watch Prime Ministers somberly laying wreaths at the Cenotaph. As a treat I’ve pictured the original of this fiery, rage filled poem (which stands in stark contrast to his earlier, gentler work) as well as the text on the left for easier reading.

The great ones of the earth

Approve, with smiles and bland salutes, the rage

And monstrous tyranny they have brought to birth

The great ones of the earth

Are much concerned about the wars they wage,

And quite aware of what those wars are worth.

You Marshals, gilt and red,

You Ministers, and Princes, and Great Men,

Why can’t you keep your mouthings for the dead?

Go round the simple Cemeteries; and then

Talk of our noble sacrifice and losses

To the wooden crosses.

Sassoon was not a Conscientious Objector, but the sentiment of his words and poetry shares much in common with the motivations of men who refused conscription in 1916-1918. His “Finished with War: A Soldier’s declaration” was read to the Houses of Commons by Mr Lees-Smith, MP for Northampton and CO sympathiser and defended by other pro-CO MPs. His declaration, the passion and despair reflected in his poetry, is something all COs could have agreed with:

“I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.”

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2 thoughts on “Poetry: Siegfried Sassoon’s Great ones

  1. Pingback: Sons of Poetry | scaffoldingpoetry

  2. Pingback: A Whispered Tale By Siegfried Sassoon | Renard Moreau Presents

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