Sassoon(TM)s poetry is too angry to be effective.
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"Sassoon's poetry is too angry to be effective." Kay Bennett Siegfried Sassoon produced some of the Great War's most bitter, ironic and satirical poetry with the intention of conveying the horror of the reality of war. Prior to enlisting in August 1914, he lived a comfortable upper-class life, indulging in pursuits such as fox-hunting, golf and cricket. He heavily influenced the verse of fellow seminal war poet Wilfred Owen and was great friends with Robert Graves. In 1917, he spoke out against the war but eventually returned to it. Targets of the anger in Sassoon's poetry were those higher up in the military hierarchy. 'Base Details' and 'The General', in particular, use satire to communicate resentment for the incompetence, indifference and obliviousness of the generals. "He's a cheery old card [...] But he did it for them both with his plan of attack" - The General "And speed glum heroes up the line to death [...] Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel [...] Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap.
I would not say that either were more angry than the other, but I find the satire in Base Details more skilful and more effective at putting across the bitterness. However, I find The Parable of the Old Man and the Young the most effective of the three. The tone is far more subdued than in the other two and uses a familiar Bible tale (the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God) and this serves to make the last two lines, quoted above, so much more effective as they jolt you from what you might expect. Owen's choice to not make the poem blatantly angry and bitter the whole way through cause the last lines to stay in the readers mind. In this case, I feel that the sustained anger of Sassoon's poetry is less effective. In Siegfried Sassoon: A Study of the War Poetry, Patrick Campbell writes that 'Perhaps the most frequently articulated criticism of [Sassoon's] war verse is that it is too often motivated by and infused with anger, that it is consequently one-dimensional and partisan, that it savages 'Blighty' values and puts nothing in their place.'
However, angry satire is not a feature of all of Sassoon's poetry; 'Died of Wounds' and 'The Dug-Out' are both tragic and harrowing images of the fatalities of war. 'The Dug-Out' focuses on a specific moment between an officer and his young fusilier: You are too young to fall asleep for ever; And when you sleep you remind me of the dead. In terms of structure, 'The Dug-Out' is reminiscent of 'Base Details' - they are both ten lines long. 'Base Details' is far angrier and harsh whilst 'The Dug-Out' is more atmospheric, personal and poignant but in both Sassoon uses the technique of delivering the major 'blow' in the last line. This shows that Sassoon can be versatile and effective even in non-satirical poetry, he is able to be touching without being overly sentimental. In conclusion, much of Sassoon's verse presents a satirical, angry anti-war viewpoint in an assured and clear-cut manner, the majority making one point in very few lines. This is why Sassoon's poetry is so effective - a single succinct and biting message delivered in a satirical voice protesting against hypocrisy and ignorance.
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