Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was destined by his mother to be a poet. Growing up in Kent and Sussex he followed country pursuits and published some verse in private pamphlets. In the trenches in the First World War, he began to write the poetry for which he is remembered; his bleak realism, his contempt for war leaders and patriotic cant, and his compassion for his comrades found expression in a body of work that was initially not considered acceptable for public viewing.
In 1917 Sassoon was dispatched as shell-shocked to Craighlockhart War Hospital in Scotland and into the care of Army Psychiatrist William Rivers. There he encountered, and encouraged, the poet Wilfred Owen. Sassoon published further volumes of poetry in the 1920s finally establishing for himself a high reputation.
Meanwhile, he was also achieving success as a prose writer. His semi-autobiographical trilogy - Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928), Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930), and Sherston's progress (1936) relate the story of a lonely boy whose main pursuits are cricket and hunting, who then finds himself as a junior officer in the trenches of World War One and begins his journey into adulthood.
Drabble, Margaret. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th edition. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Autumn by Siegfried Sassoon
October's bellowing anger breaks and cleaves
The bronzed battalions of the stricken wood
In whose lament I hear a voice that grieves
For battle’s fruitless harvest, and the feud
Of outraged men. Their lives are like the leaves
Scattered in flocks of ruin, tossed and blown
Along the westering furnace flaring red.
O martyred youth and manhood overthrown,
The burden of your wrongs is on my head.
From Attack and Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918)
On our shelves:
- Minds at war: poetry and experience of the First World War: the testimony of poets, politicians, pundits, propagandists, generals, and ordinary people edited by David Roberts.
- Siegfried Sassoon by John Stuart Roberts
- Roberts, David, ed. "Siegfried Sassoon 1996-1967." Out of the dark: poetry of the First World War. West Sussex: Saxon Books, 2009, 114-139.
A good secondary source you can refer to is the Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which is based on the war experiences of Siegfried Sassoon. It includes his time at Craiglockhart War Hospital and his encounters with the psychiatrist William Rivers.
- Siegfried Sassoon - from BBC - GCSE Bitesize English
- Siegfried Sassoon - from BBC History
- Siegfried Sassoon - from Poetry Foundation
- Siegfried Sassoon - from War Poets Foundation
Craighlockhart War Hospital
- Did Craighlockhart hospital revolutionizse mental health care? - BBC iWonder
- The Craighlockhart War Hospital of Edinburgh
- William Halse Rivers (1864-1922) - Science Museum
- W.H.R. Rivers's 1918 Lancet paper "The Repression of War Experience"
- Rivers beyond Regeneration - University of Cambridge - Research
World War One Poetry
- Das, Santanu. "Reframing First World War Poetry." British Library. 2013. Internet. 18 Jan. 2017