Siegfried Sassoon

Poetry on Peace

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967):

The Dragon and the Undying (1916)
Before the Battle (1916)
Everyone Sang (1919)

Edited by Peter Y. Chou


All night the flares go up; the Dragon sings
And beats upon the dark with furious wings;
And, stung to rage by his own darting fires,
Reaches with grappling coils from town to town;
He lusts to break the loveliness of spires,
And hurls their martyred music toppling down.
Yet, though the slain are homeless as the breeze,

Vocal are they, like storm-bewilder'd seas.
Their faces are the fair, unshrouded night,
And planets are their eyes, their ageless dreams.
Tenderly stooping earthward from their height,
They wander in the dusk with chanting streams,
And they are dawn-lit trees, with arms up-flung,
To hail the burning heavens they left unsung.

(February 1916)

The Old Huntsman: "The Dragon and the Undying" (1916)



Music of whispering trees
Hushed by a broad-winged breeze
Where shaken water gleams;
And evening radiance falling
With reedy bird-notes calling.
O bear me safe through dark, you low-voiced streams.

I have no need to pray
That fear may pass away;
I scorn the growl and rumble of the fight
That summons me from cool
Silence of marsh and pool
And yellow lilies is landed in light
O river of stars and shadows, lead me through the night.

(Bussy-le-Daours, June 25, 1916)

The Old Huntsman: "Before the Battle" (1916)



Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields;
    on—on—and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless;
    the singing will never be done.

(April 1919)

Picture Show: "Everyone Sang (1919)

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967),
The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon,
(Arranged & Introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis)
Faber & Faber, London, 1983, pp. 23, 39, 144

Notes: Sassoon was born at Weirleigh in Kent on Sept. 8, 1886. An officer in World War I, he was wounded in the shoulder (April 16, 1917) on the Somme front. His poem "Before the Battle" referred to the Battle of Somme which began six days later on July 1, 1916. Sassoon expressed his conviction of the brutality and waste of war in grim, forceful, realistic verse: The Old Huntsman (1917), Counter-Attack (1918), and War Poems (1919).

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (3-14-2003)