Sassoon mentions issues that a lot of other war poets mention in their poetry. In the first line of the poem Sassoon talks about the young nieve boys that enrol to the war, thinking that it will be glorious and honourable to fight for their country. In fact that is far from the truth, when faced with war this is not what young soldiers feel, they feel, scared, lonely, isolated and unprepared. He calls the men ‘boys’, as they are so young and inexperienced.
“Simple soldier Boy”
In the first stanza we begin to imagine and feel what it would be like to fight in the trenches. Sassoon talks about the “lonesome dark”, we begin to feel that the men did feel isolated and lonely, scared and losing hope and faith in God. The soldiers did not feel patriotic and honourable and neither did the poets who fought and wrote during the war, attitudes were changing. God does not seem relevant now, they have lost faith in him, when they need him most, and he is not there.
Sassoon talks about the simple things that we take for granted in life, the things you never realise you have until they are gone.
“Who grinned at life in empty joy”
The idealistic views of war are being shattered with every line, it was not patriotic and it there was not a feeling of ‘brotherhood’ and togetherness, the men felt very much alone. The soldiers did not feel it was there destiny or purpose in life to fight in the war, but it was a punishment and a possible end to their life. The reality of war was so different to what the public knew. Past poets did not write the truth, and did not inform those who did not fight in the war what it was actually like, due to the fact they needed to convince men to enrol in the war rather than discourage them, and not to frighten their friends and families.
The reality of life in the war, was disgusting and disease ridden. The trenches were wet, if not wet, damp, it was dirty and unhygienic, animals and creatures lived and slept among men in the trenches, rats mauled on dead corpses, bringing and spreading disease. It was cold and wet due to the weather.
“In winter trenches” “crumps and lice.”
The moral in the trenches is low, with lack of fate, depression, and loneliness. The fact that when a soldier died he would be remembered for what he did, that he fought in the great war for his country, but it was not true. The men were just another number or statistic, men were not honoured, they were forgotten. People felt guilt and shame that they had sent their family away to fight, not proud.
“He put a bullet through his brain
No one spoke of him again.”
In the last stanza Sassoon talks about how those who did not fight in the war, did not know that their encouragement was killing and depressing thousands of men. That they could never understand what the soldiers must go through, without seeing it for themselves, and they could never imagine the hell the trenches actually were.
Sassoon talks about issues other poets prior to The Battle of the Somme did not. He told about what war was and not how it should have been. He talks about the emotions and feelings in the trenches, and how the men did not feel patriotic, or honourable, but scared and lonely. God had a major involvement prior to the battle of the Somme, but he talks about how in fact he did not play a major part, the truth was, fate had been lost, with hope and honour. It is the brutal truth.
Rupert Brooke did not fight in the war until 1916, but did write about it beforehand. His views were idealistic and drastically different from those by Sassoon. Brooke would not possible know what the war was like, but from what heard. Brooke was a Georgian poet writing mainly about landscape and the countryside.
Brooke’s views of war were very patriotic and idealistic, as most poetry was before 1916, as most poetry was. In his poem, ‘Peace’, he had a strong belief in God and believed that war was a purpose in life for men who had nothing.
“God be thanked.”
It was a brotherhood, togetherness, fighting for one cause, together and for your country, an honour to uphold it is what men wanted to do. In the poem he constantly refers to the men as a group, ‘we’ ‘are’ and ‘us’. They are never alone like how Sassoon suggested, they were together a strong group, united for one cause.
Brooke’s poem is up beat, positive, and patriotic, God supported and approves. Suddenly these men have a purpose in life, these men are no longer ignorant they aware of things, they are aware this is their purpose in life, something they were waiting to do. He says waking which in this sense means waking into their purpose in life, their destiny. It could also mean death an eternal sleep.
“wakened from our sleeping”
The ultimate sin in God’s eyes is suicide. Men who committed suicide were considered cowards, and ‘half men’. Men were criticised for it. God was a considered very important to those fighting in the war, he helped them through and gave them courage and hope. He kept spirits high. God was with them by their side, at all times. The soldiers thank God for giving them the opportunity to fight for their country, to fulfil their Christian duty, keeping them safe, pleasing their God, so he will welcome them into the gates of heaven.
“God be thanked who marched with us in this hour.”
Brooke talks about how the men who fight in this war will always be remembered for they honour they served for their country, and that there will always be a sense on pride. That the principles of honour, pride, and chivalry will live on. That soldiers will live on in remembrance even, after they die, ever thankful for their duties.
“Nought broken, save this body, lost but breath:”
Brooke says that the men do not fear death and that they are there to fulfil their destiny and purpose in life. Men enjoy fighting for their country it is and honour.
“Where’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending.”
Unlike Brooke, who tells it from an idealistic view, Sassoon, who wrote during the war, had a realistic view, which was very different. Men were scared of death from war, they were scared to fight, but could not leave, and they committed suicide to leave the terror. His views were the opposite to what people believed war was actually about, men did not feel patriotic or honourable, they didn’t care to fight, as soon as they entered war, they knew they were trapped in hell. God did not help, and men lost fate, they lost the will to live and carry on to fight. Their country was not the top of their priorities.
“And the worst friend and enemy is but death”
Brooke justifies death, it is ok to die, if you die for your country. Sassoon talks about death in the opposite way, men did not set out to die, and they were thoroughly scared of death. Sassoon talks of the soldiers as ‘boys’ young, inexperience and vulnerable boys, going out to a man’s job. But Brooke refers to them as men, we picture men to be responsible and ready for action, to cope with war, they were not.
War was meant to be fulfilling and victorious something men would enjoy, to be fighting for their country and making them proud, making their country proud. It wasn’t it was hell, it was uncomfortable, miserable, dangerous conditions, men felt depressed and lonely, they were not patriotic and proud to be in war defending their country like Brooke said. Brooke said they would be eternally remembered and honoured, Sassoon pointed out, it wouldn’t be like that, there are so many bodies, and not everyone was remembered.
Men were tricked into enrolling into the war they were made to believe that it was victorious, patriotic and honourable for their country. Men set out believing that this was what war would be like. Brooke didn’t point this out like Sassoon did in his poetry, Brooke couldn’t know he had not been to war yet.
Sassoon points out that men feel so low that suicide is the only option left for the men, they feel that they cannot carry on living in dread of death. In the damp, wet, cold, disease ridden trenches. Fate was lost at this point, in Brooke’s poetry God is of utmost importance and God would not permit suicide in any situation. It was a sin. Brooke believed God was there by the soldier’s side at all times, helping them through.
Thomas Hardy was a unique poet, he could never go to war, he was too old to enrol, this is the first difference in comparison to the other poets, Brooke and Sassoon. As he never went to war, we would expect a patriotic, idealistic view, but he did not. He wrote realistically about war, and was sympathetic in his writing. Hardy was known for being quite pessimistic about his poetry