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The Sunday Poem - Anthony Cronin's personal anthology

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Anthony Cronin

Anthony Cronin

Anthony Cronin

There are two misconceptions about Siegfried Sassoon which are still common, even among habitual poetry readers. One is that he was a 'war poet' who was inspired by the conflict to write his savagely ironic and realistic poems, full of contempt for those who incompetently presided over the slaughter and, having done so, he fell silent.

The truth is that for the rest of his life, Sassoon went on writing poems which are thoughtful, reflective and sometimes ironic but in which the war is rarely mentioned.

The other misconception is that by writing his war poems he changed public opinion about the conflict and its supposed aims, so that the disillusion, which has lasted to this day, had set in before it was over. In fact Sassoon's first two collections, both published while the war was still going on, fell absolutely flat. The first was scarcely noticed and the second was not reviewed at all. Disillusion set in much later after the war memorials had been erected and enshrouded in rhetoric by various eminences.

In Me, Past, Present, Future Meet

by Siegfried Sassoon

To hold long chiding conference.
My lusts usurp the present tense
And strangle Reason in his seat.
My loves leap through the future's fence
To dance with dream-enfranchised feet.

In me the cave-man clasps the seer,
And garlanded Apollo goes
Chanting to Abraham's deaf ear.
In me the tiger sniffs the rose.
Look at my heart, kind friends, and tremble,
Since there your elements assemble.

Sunday Independent