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Tag: Siegfried Sassoon

Robert Graves

Robert Von Ranke Graves was born in Wimbledon on 24th July 1895, the third of five children born to Alfred Perceval Graves and his second wife, Amalie Elizabeth Von Ranke. Graves was educated at Charterhouse School, where he was befriended and influenced by one of the masters, mountaineer, George Mallory. In 1914, Graves has just won a scholarship to St John’s College, Oxford, when the First World War began, so he put his studies to one side and enlisted, being commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Although not a popular officer, Graves formed one important friendship early in the war, with fellow Fusilier, Siegfried Sassoon. He also wrote and published war poetry, the first volume of which was entitled Over the Brazier.

On July 20th 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, Graves was caught in shellfire and badly wounded in the chest and thigh. The battalion doctor, Captain J. C. Dunn, believed that nothing could be done to save Graves’ life, so he was left on a stretcher until the following day, when it was discovered that he was still alive. He was immediately transferred to hospital at Heilly, although the casualty list had already been prepared and a letter of condolence had been dispatched to his parents.

By the time this letter was received, Graves had arrived at Rouen, where he scribbled a hasty note to his parents. Upon receipt of this, the grief-stricken Graves family were thrown into confusion and it was not until 30th July that they received official confirmation that Robert was alive and would soon be arriving in England. In the meantime, however, The Times had printed Graves’ name among the casualties and were obliged to publish a retraction on August 5th.

Graves recovered fairly quickly from his wounds and was passed fit by a medical board on November 17th, returning to France in January 1917. However, the damage caused to his lungs was more serious than anticipated and he succumbed to pneumonia. He was sent to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight to recuperate.

In July 1917, Siegfried Sassoon made his Declaration against the continuation of the war and upon hearing of this, Graves travelled to London, where he met with Edward Marsh and Robbie Ross, both of whom were equally concerned for Sassoon’s future. Graves then travelled on to the regimental headquarters at Litherland, where he persuaded Sassoon that the authorities would never court-martial him, as Sassoon hoped, but would have him declared insane. Sassoon agreed to appear before a medical board, which pronounced him as suffering from neurosis and he was sent to Craiglockhart Military Hospital in Edinburgh.

January 1918 saw Graves’ marriage to Nancy Nicholson, with their first child Jenny being born a year later. In October 1919, Graves resumed his education at Oxford, although he would be forced to postpone this as financial and health problems beset him. Nancy gave birth of a second child, David, in March 1920, followed by a daughter, Catherine two years later and finally Sam in January 1924. As the family grew, so did the financial problems and Graves, now studying again, borrowed money from family and friends, including Sassoon.

Graves finally completed his degree in 1925 and accepted the post of English Professor at Cairo University, so the whole family embarked for Egypt, together with the American poet Laura Riding, with whom Graves was collaborating on several projects. However, the position in Cairo proved disappointing and within six months they had all returned to Oxfordshire, where Graves and Laura Riding became lovers.

By September 1929, Graves had finished his autobiography Goodbye To All That, whereupon he and Laura moved to Majorca, leaving many sad and angry friends and relations behind, upset by both their lifestyle and the content of Graves’ book. Both Edward Marsh and Siegfried Sassoon took action against Graves’ publishers, forcing changes to be made prior to publication.

In Majorca, Graves began working on his historical novel, I Claudius, while Laura, who believed herself to be a Goddess, manipulated the emotions of everyone around her. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War forced the couple to abandon Majorca and they settled in Northern France with an old friend, Alan Hodge and his new wife Beryl. The outbreak of the Second World War saw all four of them heading for America, where Laura began an affair with critic Schuyler Jackson. Graves returned to England, followed by Beryl Hodge, who had become very attached to him. While Alan Hodge agreed to an amicable divorce, Nancy would not relent, so Graves and Beryl moved in together and their son, William was born in September 1940.

Graves’ children from his first marriage all served in the armed forces during the Second World War, except for Sam, who was exempted on account of his deafness. Jenny and Catherine enlisted in the WAAF’s while David served, like his father, with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, fighting in Burma, where he was shot and killed in April 1943.

Beryl had two more children during the war: Lucia in 1943 and Juan in 1944, then after the conflict was over, the family moved back to Majorca. In 1949, Nancy finally agreed to a divorce, enabling Graves and Beryl to marry in May 1950.

Over the remaining years of his life, Graves had relationships with several “muses”, some more serious than others. In January 1953, Beryl gave birth to her final child, Tomas, and remained loyal to Graves, despite his behaviour with other women and the divisions this caused in their marriage.

In 1961, Graves was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, which position he held until 1966, when he stepped down and was replaced by Edmund Blunden. 1964 brought tragedy, when Graves’ oldest child, Jenny died suddenly, although Graves did not attend her funeral.

By the early 1970s, Graves’ memory and eyesight were beginning to fail and over the next fifteen years, despite Beryl’s loyal and unwavering care, his health slowly deteriorated until his death on December 7th 1985, at the age of 90.

Wilfred Owen

Born on 18th March 1893 in Plas Wilmot near Oswestry in Shropshire, Wilfred Owen would eventually become one of the most famous war poets in the English language. His poetry is now most certainly the most widely read and studied within this genre and forms the introduction to the First World War for many individuals.

Wilfred was the oldest of four children, a sister Mary and two brothers, Colin and Harold, all born to Tom Owen and his wife Susan. Until Wilfred was four, the family lived in reasonable comfort in a house belonging to his maternal grandfather, Edward Shaw, a former mayor of the town. However, upon Shaw’s death, it was discovered that he was virtually bankrupt, so the Owens moved to smaller lodgings in Birkenhead, where Wilfred attended the Birkenhead Institute, developing into an earnest and slightly arrogant young man. Throughout his childhood, Owen was greatly influenced by his mother Susan, who firmly believed that her eldest child would one day restore the family fortune.

In 1907 the family moved to Shrewsbury, when Tom Owen was appointed Assistant Superintendent of the Joint Railways. The family’s living conditions improved and Wilfred now attended the Shrewsbury Technical School, where he studied hard, developing his interest in literature and especially the poetry of Keats.

Owen sat and passed the qualifying examination for London University in 1911. Unfortunately, his parents could not afford the fees and Owen had not qualified for a scholarship, so instead he took up the position of assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden in Oxfordshire, in return for which he received additional tuition. However, this proved to be an unhappy time for Owen, who found his religious beliefs sorely tested in this poor parish, especially in the absence of his influential mother. By February 1913, Owen had returned to Shrewsbury and went on to sit for a scholarship at Reading University. Upon failing, however, he gave up on the idea of a university education.

Owen needed to earn a living so he travelled to France where he became an English teacher, initially in Berlitz and then in the Pyrenees, where he became the private tutor to a wealthy family. When the First World War began in August 1914, Owen made no attempt to return home, writing to his mother that he believed his role in the war was to perpetuate the English language. It would be a year before Owen returned to enlist in the Artists’ Rifles in October 1915 and, following months of training, he was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment in June 1916. Owen finally arrived back in France in December 1916, in the middle of the coldest winter of the war.

On March 13th 1917, Owen fell into a cellar and, although he initially thought he had just banged his head, he was actually concussed and was hospitalised for two weeks. At the beginning of April, in heavy fighting around Savy Wood near St Quentin, Owen was caught up in shell fire and spent several days in a shell hole, surrounded by the dismembered remains of a fellow officer. When Owen’s Battalion was relieved on 21st April, it was noticed that his speech was confused and he was shaking. He was diagnosed as suffering from shell shock and was eventually sent to Craiglockhart Military Hospital in Edinburgh, where he remained for four months.

While at Craiglockhart, Owen met a fellow patient, Siegfried Sassoon and the two soon became friends, after an initially awkward first meeting. The shy, stammering Owen was somewhat in awe of the decorated war hero Sassoon, but the latter agreed to look at some of Owen’s poetry and perceived a natural talent in a few of his pieces. The more experienced poet encouraged his young protégé, even to the point where the manuscript for one of Owen’s most famous poems, Anthem for Doomed Youth, contains several amendments in Sassoon’s handwriting.

Under Sassoon’s influence, Owen began to write some of his most famous war poems and was also introduced to many literary figures including Robert Graves, Robbie Ross and H G Wells. Owen was declared fit for light duties, leaving Craiglockhart in October 1917, bound for Scarborough. He did not return to France until the end of August 1918, having already begun work on the publication of his first volume of poetry.

In October 1918, Owen was awarded the Military Cross. The citation read:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme Line on October 1st/2nd 1918. On the company commander becoming a casualty, he assumed command and showed fine leadership and resisted a heavy counter-attack. He personally manipulated a captured enemy machine gun from an isolated position and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. Throughout he behaved most gallantly.”

On the morning of November 4th, Owen was shot and killed while attempting to cross the Sambre-Oise Canal. A week later, the Armistice was signed and hostilities ceased. As the church bells began to ring all over England, Tom and Susan awaited news of their beloved eldest son, when the telegram arrived, informing them of his death.

Owen is buried in the tiny Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Ors.

Charlotte Mew

Charlotte Mary Mew was born on London on 15th November 1869, the third child of architect Frederick Mew and his wife Anna Maria Marden (née Kendall). Charlotte’s mother firmly believed that she had married beneath her and throughout her marriage, despite having seven children, she did very little around the home. The children, Henry, Frederick, Charlotte, Richard, Caroline (known as Anne), Daniel (known as Christopher) and Freda, were cared for by their nurse, Elizabeth Goodman.

Charlotte’s childhood and young adult years were ones of great tragedy and upheaval. In 1876, Christopher, then only four months old, died from “convulsions” and later the same year, Richard, aged five, succumbed to scarlet fever. Henry, the oldest of the children, was committed to a lunatic asylum in 1888, followed by the youngest child, Freda in 1897.

Throughout these unhappy times, Charlotte was educated at The Gower Street School, which was run by Lucy Harrison and in 1894, published her first story, named Passed in The Yellow Book – An Illustrated Quarterly.

In 1898, Charlotte’s father died from stomach cancer and, having always been an extravagant man, he left no capital to the surviving members of his family. Anne had become an artist, so she turned her hand to restoring paintings and antique furniture, while Charlotte continued to write: her stories and poems being published in various magazines and periodicals.

Charlotte’s oldest brother, Henry, died in the Peckham House Lunatic Asylum in 1901 and, unsurprisingly, this series of unhappy events began to take their toll. Charlotte experienced deep feelings of sorrow, helped only by Anne – always the more optimistic of the two sisters – who was her constant companion. Charlotte occasionally travelled alone, leaving Anne to care for their domineering and demanding mother. In 1902, she went to Paris to visit fellow writer, Ella D’Arcy, with whom Charlotte was in love. Ella, however, did not reciprocate these feelings and Charlotte returned to London disappointed and dejected.

Few of Charlotte and Anne’s 20th century friends knew of their earlier tragedies and by 1909, Charlotte’s work was becoming more well known. She gave poetry readings and was more widely published, gaining critical acclaim for her work. However, in 1913, Charlotte suffered a further personal unhappiness when she met fellow writer May Sinclair. The two became close friends, but when Charlotte made romantic advances, May rejected her and, to make matters worse, it is alleged that May publicly humiliated Charlotte over her actions.

Luckily, many of Charlotte’s true friends ignored the potential scandal and embarrassment caused by this episode and continued to support her work. Harold Monro of the Poetry Bookshop was one such champion and through him, Charlotte was introduced to Sydney Cockrell, Thomas Hardy and Siegfried Sassoon, who often cited Charlotte as his favourite female poet. When Sassoon first met Charlotte in June 1919, he realised that the two sisters had little money and an elderly mother to support, so he offered Charlotte paid work, writing reviews for the Daily Herald, of which he was the Literary Editor.

In December 1922, Charlotte’s mother died, leaving the two sisters, now in their 50s, to themselves. They lived quietly, their financial hardship eased by the award of a Civil List Pension to Charlotte. This award was achieved after Thomas Hardy, John Masefield and Walter de la Mare had lobbied the relevant authorities to recognise the quality of Charlotte’s work.

Finally, in June 1927, there came a tragedy from which Charlotte could not recover: Anne died from cancer. Grief overwhelmed Charlotte: she rarely slept and she became convinced that Anne had been buried alive. Seven difficult months later, she was admitted to a nursing home where it was hoped that her nervous disorder could be treated. On 24th March 1928, Charlotte took her own life by drinking half a bottle of disinfectant. At the inquest into her death, the doctor said that, following Anne’s death, Charlotte had become convinced that she was surrounded by germs and she believed that these had killed her sister.

Described in one obituary as a “poet of rare quality”, Charlotte Mew never really appreciated her talents, having a low opinion of her own abilities. The literary world, however, mourned her loss, hoping that, perhaps in death she had found peace and had escaped from her disillusionment and loneliness.

Redeeming Features

Further to yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme broadcast, I have now read an article in this morning’s Telegraph online entitled “Unpublished poems shed light on Siegfried Sassoon” in which Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, described as “Sassoon’s biographer” (she’s actually one of several and not necessarily the most eminent, or recent) expresses her surprise that “after angry war poems” Sassoon had written “poems full of the glory of war and the idea that war is an heroic venture”. These words are taken from the BBC interview, but the re-airing of them in the Telegraph article demonstrates and reiterates a worrying lack of understanding about the poet which surprises me.

Sassoon himself dated his first “outspoken” war poem as being In the Pink which was written on 10th February 1916. So, it seems to me that anything written prior to this could be open to the interpretation that he was still coming to terms with the war and his experiences and, quite probably, hadn’t yet made his mind up as to how he wished to write about it. The fact that these unpublished works under discussion, which show an attitude that is not necessarily “typical” of Sassoon, were discovered in the January 1916 diaries is, therefore, no surprise to me.

The article in the Telegraph and the BBC interview quote Sassoon’s November 1915 poem The Redeemer (not simply “Redeemer” as stated in the article) which Sassoon ends with the the phrase “Oh Christ Almighty, now I’m stuck!”. The point of this quote appears to be to show that Sassoon had written an “angry poem” in November 1915, and then in January 1916, had written these unpublished, yet more glorifying pieces. However, The Redeemer was, according notes written by Sassoon himself, (provided in Rupert Hart-Davis’s edition of Sassoon’s War Poems (Faber and Faber 1983)), “revised and rewritten March 1916”. Therefore, its classification as a November 1915 poem is a little dubious.

Another point to note is that really The Redeemer can’t be judged as being anti-war, or “angry”, despite its final line, which is actually a description of a soldier who, having dropped a “load of planks” “in the muck” of a darkened trench, finds himself struggling, quite literally through the mud and is “stuck” – hence his declaration. The poem, as a whole, is a description of Sassoon’s perception of the fine work of the men who trudge along the trenches in the dark, carrying supplies and the ending of the third verse, in fact, reads:
“But to the end, unjudging, he’ll endure
Horror and pain, not uncontent to die
That Lancaster and Lune may stand secure.”
In light of quotes such as this, and reading the poem as whole, The Redeemer can hardly be deemed to be a piece that falls into Sassoon’s typical bitter or satirical later verses. In fact it appears to be quite supportive of the war and, more especially, the work of those involved.

If a poem praising the “nobility of the fight” had been found after, say, February or March 1916, that would, indeed, have been newsworthy. As it is, this just shows a lamentable lack of knowledge and understanding of the man as a person and a poet. One expects – perhaps a little too hopefully – a greater degree of integrity.

Edmund Blunden

Edmund Charles Blunden was born on London on November 1st 1896, the oldest child of headmaster Charles Blunden and his wife, Margaret (née Georgina Margaret Tyler). After the arrival of two more children, the Blundens moved to Yalding in Kent, where Charles became headmaster of the local village school. Edmund passed a very happy childhood here and a further six children were born to Margaret, to whom Edmund was devoted.

Blunden began his senior education at Cleaves Grammar School in 1907, before winning a place at Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, West Sussex, which he attended as a boarder from 1909. Although homesick, Blunden was desperately keen to succeed, and worked hard, publishing his first poem in the school magazine in 1913.

When the First World War began, Blunden completed his final year at school, gaining a scholarship to Queen’s College Oxford, which he duly postponed in favour of a commission in the Royal Sussex Regiment. Following his training, Blunden embarked for France in the spring of 1916, where his battalion saw action on or around the Somme battlefields during that summer. In November, just as the battle was coming to a close, Blunden was awarded the Military Cross for his part in a reconnaissance mission, the citation for which read as follows:

“For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and determination when in charge of a carrying party under heavy fire. He has previously done fine work.”

Blunden also saw action at Passchendaele in 1917 and then in 1918 was posted to a training camp near Stowmarket in Suffolk.

Despite Blunden’s feelings of guilt over this “safe” posting, he found some compensations: namely a whirlwind romance with blacksmith’s daughter Mary Daines, whom he married in June 1918. By the time Blunden returned to France, the war was actually over and Mary was also pregnant, so he was pleased to be demobilised in February 1919. Blunden’s place at Oxford still awaited and to fill the time until October, he focused on his poetry. In May he wrote, enclosing some poems, to Siegfried Sassoon, newly appointed literary editor of the Daily Herald. Sassoon responded favourably, the two men met and a lifelong friendship began, out of which Blunden was introduced to many other literary figures.

In July 1919, Mary gave birth to a daughter named Joy, who sadly died when only a few weeks old. Both parents were devastated and Blunden threw himself into his work, going up to Oxford as planned in October, where he met Robert Graves, John Masefield, and Robert Nichols. His time at Oxford was cut short, however, when Mary became pregnant again and he had to find work, editing the journal Athenaeum. Another daughter, Clare, was born in October 1920, followed by a son, John two years later, but by now Blunden’s marriage was under severe strain. When Blunden was offered the position of Professor of English at Tokyo University in 1924, he accepted, leaving Mary and his children behind.

While in Japan, Blunden began writing his memoir Undertones of War and also had an affair with his secretary, Aki Hayashi, who returned with him to England at the end of his contract in 1927, although by then their affair had ended. Mary, however, had also met someone else and, upon Blunden’s return, she announced her intention to leave him.

Blunden, again, threw himself into his work, completing Undertones of War and two volumes of poetry, his stretched finances assisted by a gift of £50.00 per month, given to him by Siegfried Sassoon. Blunden’s divorce from Mary was finalised in 1931, after which he began teaching English at Merton College, Oxford. He also compiled the poems of Wilfred Owen and wrote a biography to accompany them for publication, bringing Owen’s work to the attention of the general public.

While at Oxford, Blunden met and married writer Sylva Norman in 1933 and in 1936 he was appointed as an advisor to the Imperial War Graves Commission. At the beginning of the Second World War, Sylva joined the forces and, in her absence, Blunden began a romance with an undergraduate named Claire Poynting. When Sylva heard about this affair, she returned to Oxford, proposing an uneasy compromise, whereby she would remain Blunden’s wife, but allow him to continue seeing Claire. The strain of this situation soon became too much and eventually Blunden and Sylva were divorced and he married Claire in May 1945, by which time he had left Oxford to work at the Times Literary Supplement.

In 1946, Claire gave birth to the first of four daughters, named Margaret, and the following year, Blunden accepted a Foreign Office position in Japan, where the family lived for the next three years and where two further daughters – Lucy and Frances – were born. Upon their return to England, Blunden was awarded the CBE in 1951 and resumed his work at the TLS. In 1953, Blunden collaborated with composer Gerald Finzi to produce a collection of poems by Ivor Gurney, whom both men greatly admired.

The next eleven years were spent as Head of English at the University of Hong Kong, where Blunden’s final daughter, Catherine, was born. When they returned to England in 1964, the family settled at Long Melford in Suffolk. Two years later, Blunden was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, although he was forced to resign from this position after two years due to ill health, following which he became a virtual recluse. Blunden died peacefully in bed on 20th January 1974. At his funeral, Private A F Beeney, a runner from Blunden’s battalion, dropped a wreath of poppies onto the coffin.

Edmund Blunden is generally acknowledged to have spent more time in the trenches than any other major poet of the First World War. He remained deeply troubled by his experiences during the conflict but his words, both poetry and prose, often reflect a more positive perspective. While Blunden may not have been keen to go, he nonetheless tried to focus on nature and the countryside and, above all, the comradeship of those with whom he felt privileged to have served.

Siegfried Sassoon

Born on 8th September 1886, Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was the second of three sons of Alfred and Theresa Sassoon. His parents separated when he was four years old, leaving his mother to raise her three sons alone. Nonetheless, Sassoon spent a happy and secure childhood and was educated at Marlborough before going on to Clare College, Cambridge, although he failed to obtain a degree. Back home in Kent, Sassoon lived the life of a country squire, as well as writing poetry, some of which was shown to the influential art collector, Edward Marsh, who quickly became friends with Sassoon, introducing him to several other literary celebrities, including Rupert Brooke.

Upon the outbreak of war, Sassoon immediately enlisted as a Trooper in the Sussex Yeomanry, but a bad fall while riding left him with a broken arm. When he had recovered from this injury, Sassoon transferred to the infantry and was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in May 1915, leaving for France that November, following training.

Sassoon’s war soon became personal. He received news of the death of his brother Hamo in Gallipoli in November 1915, then in March 1916, his close friend Second Lieutenant David Thomas was shot and killed. The tone of Sassoon’s poetry changed from this moment on, as did his attitude to the war: he wanted to avenge these deaths, regardless of his own personal safety and his exploits earned him the nickname “Mad Jack”, as well as a Military Cross.

In mid-1916, Sassoon was sent back to England, suffering from trench fever, and didn’t return to the trenches until February 1917, where he participated in the First Battle of the Scarpe and was wounded in the shoulder. By the end of April, Sassoon was back in England again.

While convalescing from his wound, Sassoon became more and more embittered about he war and also fell under the influence of a group of pacifists, including John Middleton Murry and Bertrand Russell. The culmination of these events was Sassoon’s now famous Declaration against the validity of the war. Once knowledge of his Declaration became public, his friends, especially Marsh and Graves, tried to convince him that his aim of being court-martialled would never be permitted. Sassoon therefore, reluctantly, agreed to attend a medical board and, following evidence from Robert Graves, was declared as suffering from shell-shock. On 23rd July, he was admitted to Craiglockhart Military Hospital in Edinburgh, where he came under the care of Dr. William H. R. Rivers.

While at Craiglockhart, Sassoon wrote some of his most affecting and effective poetry. He also met Wilfred Owen (a fellow patient) and the two quickly became friends. Sassoon’s influence over Owen’s poetry is obvious, but Owen also idolised the older poet and war hero.

Under the influence of Rivers’s treatment, Sassoon came to realise that he could no longer tolerate remaining safely in Scotland while his men were suffering in France. On 26th November, he was declared fit for active service and left for Palestine in mid-February 1918, only returning to France in May. On 13th July, Sassoon was in No Man’s Land when he stood up and removed his helmet, whereupon he was shot in the head. He later discovered that it was one of his own men who had delivered the blow, believing him to be an advancing German. The wound was not fatal, but resulted in the end of the Sassoon’s war and he was placed on indefinite sick leave, eventually being discharged from the army in March 1919, with the rank of Captain.

Sassoon waited for several months to hear from Owen and it was quite some while before he heard of the younger poet’s death on 4th November 1918. Immediately after the war, Sassoon threw himself into literary work, meeting Thomas Hardy and T. E. Lawrence, among others, and becoming literary editor of the Daily Herald, in which position he was able to advance the career of Edmund Blunden, who became a lifelong friend.

In 1928, Sassoon began writing his autobiographies, initially as fictionalised accounts and then in non-fiction versions, as well as continuing to write poetry. During the 1920’s, Sassoon’s homosexuality became a more important part of his life and he embarked upon a few romantic liaisons, most notably with Stephen Tennant. Eventually, however, Sassoon tired of the fickle nature of these relationships and he married Hester Gatty in December 1933. They lived at Heytesbury House in Wiltshire and had one son, named George, in 1936. The marriage did not last, however, and the couple separated in 1945. In 1957 Sassoon converted to the Roman Catholic faith and he died on September 1st 1967.

Siegfried Sassoon’s war poetry is often – and unjustly – eclipsed by that of Wilfred Owen and yet Sassoon’s poems contain a brutal honesty that is lacking from almost every other poet in this genre. This, mingled with his humorous, ironic and occasionally lyrical style allows us to see the effects of the war: the anger, the waste, the bitterness; but underneath all of that, we can see the unutterable sadness of the “world’s worst wound” as Sassoon called the conflict, and a love for his fellow sufferers that few would succeed in conveying so beautifully or so honestly.