Aftermath, by Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon was born on September 8, 1886.  He enlisted in the British Army a week before the outbreak of the First World War.  He  served throughout the war on the Western Front, and was treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart Hospital in Scotland under Doctor William H.R. Rivers in 1917.  He relinquished his commission on health grounds on 12 March 1919.  He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1951.  He died from stomach cancer one week before his 81st birthday, on September 1, 1967.




Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same—and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

    Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz—
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench—
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

    Do you remember that hour of din before the attack—
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads—those ashen-gray
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the slain of the war that you’ll never forget!

March 1919.