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Siegfried Sassoon: War, remorse and reconciliation

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Siegfried Sassoon: Selections on war

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Siegfried Sassoon

Remorse

Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash, – each instant lit
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
“Could anything be worse than this?” – he wonders,
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees. . .
Our chaps were sticking ’em like pigs…”O hell!”
He thought – -“there’s things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds.”

Reconciliation

When you are standing at your hero’s grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died,
Remember, through your heart’s rekindling pride,
The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.

Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done;
And you have nourished hatred, harsh and blind.
But in that Golgotha perhaps you’ll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.

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