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Best Famous Siegfried Sassoon Poems

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Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

Haunted

EVENING was in the wood, louring with storm.
A time of drought had sucked the weedy pool And baked the channels; birds had done with song.
Thirst was a dream of fountains in the moon, Or willow-music blown across the water 5 Leisurely sliding on by weir and mill.
Uneasy was the man who wandered, brooding, His face a little whiter than the dusk.
A drone of sultry wings flicker¡¯d in his head.
The end of sunset burning thro¡¯ the boughs 10 Died in a smear of red; exhausted hours Cumber¡¯d, and ugly sorrows hemmed him in.
He thought: ¡®Somewhere there¡¯s thunder,¡¯ as he strove To shake off dread; he dared not look behind him, But stood, the sweat of horror on his face.
15 He blunder¡¯d down a path, trampling on thistles, In sudden race to leave the ghostly trees.
And: ¡®Soon I¡¯ll be in open fields,¡¯ he thought, And half remembered starlight on the meadows, Scent of mown grass and voices of tired men, 20 Fading along the field-paths; home and sleep And cool-swept upland spaces, whispering leaves, And far off the long churring night-jar¡¯s note.
But something in the wood, trying to daunt him, Led him confused in circles through the thicket.
25 He was forgetting his old wretched folly, And freedom was his need; his throat was choking.
Barbed brambles gripped and clawed him round his legs, And he floundered over snags and hidden stumps.
Mumbling: ¡®I will get out! I must get out!¡¯ 30 Butting and thrusting up the baffling gloom, Pausing to listen in a space ¡¯twixt thorns, He peers around with peering, frantic eyes.
An evil creature in the twilight looping, Flapped blindly in his face.
Beating it off, 35 He screeched in terror, and straightway something clambered Heavily from an oak, and dropped, bent double, To shamble at him zigzag, squat and bestial.
Headlong he charges down the wood, and falls With roaring brain¡ªagony¡ªthe snap¡¯t spark¡ª 40 And blots of green and purple in his eyes.
Then the slow fingers groping on his neck, And at his heart the strangling clasp of death.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

October

ACROSS the land a faint blue veil of mist
Seems hung; the woods wear yet arrayment sober
Till frost shall make them flame; silent and whist
The drooping cherry orchards of October
Like mournful pennons hang their shrivelling leaves 5
Russet and orange: all things now decay;
Long since ye garnered in your autumn sheaves 
And sad the robins pipe at set of day.
Now do ye dream of Spring when greening shaws Confer with the shrewd breezes and of slopes 10 Flower-kirtled and of April virgin guest; Days that ye love despite their windy flaws Since they are woven with all joys and hopes Whereof ye nevermore shall be possessed.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

The Old Huntsman

 I’ve never ceased to curse the day I signed 
A seven years’ bargain for the Golden Fleece.
’Twas a bad deal all round; and dear enough It cost me, what with my daft management, And the mean folk as owed and never paid me, And backing losers; and the local bucks Egging me on with whiskys while I bragged The man I was when huntsman to the Squire.
I’d have been prosperous if I’d took a farm Of fifty acres, drove my gig and haggled At Monday markets; now I’ve squandered all My savings; nigh three hundred pound I got As testimonial when I’d grown too stiff And slow to press a beaten fox.
The Fleece! ’Twas the damned Fleece that wore my Emily out, The wife of thirty years who served me well; (Not like this beldam clattering in the kitchen, That never trims a lamp nor sweeps the floor, And brings me greasy soup in a foul crock.
) Blast the old harridan! What’s fetched her now, Leaving me in the dark, and short of fire? And where’s my pipe? ’Tis lucky I’ve a turn For thinking, and remembering all that’s past.
And now’s my hour, before I hobble to bed, To set the works a-wheezing, wind the clock That keeps the time of life with feeble tick Behind my bleared old face that stares and wonders.
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It’s queer how, in the dark, comes back to mind Some morning of September.
We’ve been digging In a steep sandy warren, riddled with holes, And I’ve just pulled the terrier out and left A sharp-nosed cub-face blinking there and snapping, Then in a moment seen him mobbed and torn To strips in the baying hurly of the pack.
I picture it so clear: the dusty sunshine On bracken, and the men with spades, that wipe Red faces: one tilts up a mug of ale.
And, having stopped to clean my gory hands, I whistle the jostling beauties out of the wood.
I’m but a daft old fool! I often wish The Squire were back again—ah! he was a man! They don’t breed men like him these days; he’d come For sure, and sit and talk and suck his briar Till the old wife brings up a dish of tea.
Ay, those were days, when I was serving Squire! I never knowed such sport as ’85, The winter afore the one that snowed us silly.
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Once in a way the parson will drop in And read a bit o’ the Bible, if I’m bad, And pray the Lord to make my spirit whole In faith: he leaves some ’baccy on the shelf, And wonders I don’t keep a dog to cheer me Because he knows I’m mortal fond of dogs! I ask you, what’s a gent like that to me As wouldn’t know Elijah if I saw him, Nor have the wit to keep him on the talk? ’Tis kind of parson to be troubling still With such as me; but he’s a town-bred chap, Full of his college notions and Christmas hymns.
Religion beats me.
I’m amazed at folk Drinking the gospels in and never scratching Their heads for questions.
When I was a lad I learned a bit from mother, and never thought To educate myself for prayers and psalms.
But now I’m old and bald and serious-minded, With days to sit and ponder.
I’d no chance When young and gay to get the hang of all This Hell and Heaven: and when the clergy hoick And holloa from their pulpits, I’m asleep, However hard I listen; and when they pray It seems we’re all like children sucking sweets In school, and wondering whether master sees.
I used to dream of Hell when I was first Promoted to a huntsman’s job, and scent Was rotten, and all the foxes disappeared, And hounds were short of blood; and officers From barracks over-rode ’em all day long On weedy, whistling nags that knocked a hole In every fence; good sportsmen to a man And brigadiers by now, but dreadful hard On a young huntsman keen to show some sport.
Ay, Hell was thick with captains, and I rode The lumbering brute that’s beat in half a mile, And blunders into every blind old ditch.
Hell was the coldest scenting land I’ve known, And both my whips were always lost, and hounds Would never get their heads down; and a man On a great yawing chestnut trying to cast ’em While I was in a corner pounded by The ugliest hog-backed stile you’ve clapped your eyes on.
There was an iron-spiked fence round all the coverts, And civil-spoken keepers I couldn’t trust, And the main earth unstopp’d.
The fox I found Was always a three-legged ’un from a bag, Who reeked of aniseed and wouldn’t run.
The farmers were all ploughing their old pasture And bellowing at me when I rode their beans To cast for beaten fox, or galloped on With hounds to a lucky view.
I’d lost my voice Although I shouted fit to burst my guts, And couldn’t blow my horn.
And when I woke, Emily snored, and barn-cocks started crowing, And morn was at the window; and I was glad To be alive because I heard the cry Of hounds like church-bells chiming on a Sunday.
Ay, that’s the song I’d wish to hear in Heaven! The cry of hounds was Heaven for me: I know Parson would call me crazed and wrong to say it, But where’s the use of life and being glad If God’s not in your gladness? I’ve no brains For book-learned studies; but I’ve heard men say There’s much in print that clergy have to wink at: Though many I’ve met were jolly chaps, and rode To hounds, and walked me puppies; and could pick Good legs and loins and necks and shoulders, ay, And feet—’twas necks and feet I looked at first.
Some hounds I’ve known were wise as half your saints, And better hunters.
That old dog of the Duke’s, Harlequin; what a dog he was to draw! And what a note he had, and what a nose When foxes ran down wind and scent was catchy! And that light lemon bitch of the Squire’s, old Dorcas— She were a marvellous hunter, were old Dorcas! Ay, oft I’ve thought, ‘If there were hounds in Heaven, With God as master, taking no subscription; And all His bless?d country farmed by tenants, And a straight-necked old fox in every gorse!’ But when I came to work it out, I found There’d be too many huntsmen wanting places, Though some I’ve known might get a job with Nick! .
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I’ve come to think of God as something like The figure of a man the old Duke was When I was turning hounds to Nimrod King, Before his Grace was took so bad with gout And had to quit the saddle.
Tall and spare, Clean-shaved and grey, with shrewd, kind eyes, that twinkled, And easy walk; who, when he gave good words, Gave them whole-hearted; and would never blame Without just cause.
Lord God might be like that, Sitting alone in a great room of books Some evening after hunting.
Now I’m tired With hearkening to the tick-tack on the shelf; And pondering makes me doubtful.
Riding home On a moonless night of cloud that feels like frost Though stars are hidden (hold your feet up, horse!) And thinking what a task I had to draw A pack with all those lame ’uns, and the lot Wanting a rest from all this open weather; That’s what I’m doing now.
And likely, too, The frost’ll be a long ’un, and the night One sleep.
The parsons say we’ll wake to find A country blinding-white with dazzle of snow.
The naked stars make men feel lonely, wheeling And glinting on the puddles in the road.
And then you listen to the wind, and wonder If folk are quite such bucks as they appear When dressed by London tailors, looking down Their boots at covert side, and thinking big.
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This world’s a funny place to live in.
Soon I’ll need to change my country; but I know ’Tis little enough I’ve understood my life, And a power of sights I’ve missed, and foreign marvels.
I used to feel it, riding on spring days In meadows pied with sun and chasing clouds, And half forget how I was there to catch The foxes; lose the angry, eager feeling A huntsman ought to have, that’s out for blood, And means his hounds to get it! Now I know It’s God that speaks to us when we’re bewitched, Smelling the hay in June and smiling quiet; Or when there’s been a spell of summer drought, Lying awake and listening to the rain.
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I’d like to be the simpleton I was In the old days when I was whipping-in To a little harrier-pack in Worcestershire, And loved a dairymaid, but never knew it Until she’d wed another.
So I’ve loved My life; and when the good years are gone down, Discover what I’ve lost.
I never broke Out of my blundering self into the world, But let it all go past me, like a man Half asleep in a land that’s full of wars.
What a grand thing ’twould be if I could go Back to the kennels now and take my hounds For summer exercise; be riding out With forty couple when the quiet skies Are streaked with sunrise, and the silly birds Grown hoarse with singing; cobwebs on the furze Up on the hill, and all the country strange, With no one stirring; and the horses fresh, Sniffing the air I’ll never breathe again.
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You’ve brought the lamp, then, Martha? I’ve no mind For newspaper to-night, nor bread and cheese.
Give me the candle, and I’ll get to bed.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

Dreamers

 Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand, Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.
I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats, And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain, Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats, And mocked by hopeless longing to regain Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats, And going to the office in the train.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

A Childs Prayer

 For Morn, my dome of blue, 
For Meadows, green and gay, 
And Birds who love the twilight of the leaves, 
Let Jesus keep me joyful when I pray.
For the big Bees that hum And hide in bells of flowers; For the winding roads that come To Evening’s holy door, May Jesus bring me grateful to his arms, And guard my innocence for evermore.
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Blind

HIS headstrong thoughts that once in eager strife
Leapt sure from eye to brain and back to eye 
Weaving unconscious tapestries of life 
Are now thrust inward dungeoned from the sky.
And he who has watched his world and loved it all 5 Starless and old and blind a sight for pity With feeble steps and fingers on the wall Gropes with his staff along the rumbling city.
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The Imperfect Lover

 I never asked you to be perfect—did I?— 
Though often I’ve called you sweet, in the invasion 
Of mastering love.
I never prayed that you Might stand, unsoiled, angelic and inhuman, Pointing the way toward Sainthood like a sign-post.
Oh yes, I know the way to heaven was easy.
We found the little kingdom of our passion That all can share who walk the road of lovers.
In wild and secret happiness we stumbled; And gods and demons clamoured in our senses.
But I’ve grown thoughtful now.
And you have lost Your early-morning freshness of surprise At being so utterly mine: you’ve learned to fear The gloomy, stricken places in my soul, And the occasional ghosts that haunt my gaze.
You made me glad; and I can still return To you, the haven of my lonely pride: But I am sworn to murder those illusions That blossom from desire with desperate beauty: And there shall be no falsehood in our failure; Since, if we loved like beasts, the thing is done, And I’ll not hide it, though our heaven be hell.
You dream long liturgies of our devotion.
Yet, in my heart, I dread our love’s destruction.
But, should you grow to hate me, I would ask No mercy of your mood: I’d have you stand And look me in the eyes, and laugh, and smite me.
Then I should know, at least, that truth endured, Though love had died of wounds.
And you could leave me Unvanquished in my atmosphere of devils.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

Night-Piece

YE hooded witches baleful shapes that moan 
Quench your fantastic lanterns and be still;
For now the moon through heaven sails alone 
Shedding her peaceful rays from hill to hill.
The faun from out his dim and secret place 5 Draws nigh the darkling pool and from his dream Half-wakens seeing there his sylvan face Reflected and the wistful eyes that gleam.
To his cold lips he sets the pipe to blow Some drowsy note that charms the listening air: 10 The dryads from their trees come down and creep Near to his side; monotonous and low He plays and plays till at the woodside there Stirs to the voice of everlasting sleep.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

Glory Of Women

 You love us when we're heroes, home on leave, 
Or wounded in a mentionable place.
You worship decorations; you believe That chivalry redeems the war's disgrace.
You make us shells.
You listen with delight, By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.
You crown our distant ardours while we fight, And mourn our laurelled memories when we're killed.
You can't believe that British troops 'retire' When hell's last horror breaks them, and they run, Trampling the terrible corpses--blind with blood.
O German mother dreaming by the fire, While you are knitting socks to send your son His face is trodden deeper in the mud.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

Morning Express

ALONG the wind-swept platform pinched and white 
The travellers stand in pools of wintry light 
Offering themselves to morn¡¯s long slanting arrows.
The train¡¯s due; porters trundle laden barrows.
The train steams in volleying resplendent clouds 5 Of sun-blown vapour.
Hither and about Scared people hurry storming the doors in crowds.
The officials seem to waken with a shout Resolved to hoist and plunder; some to the vans Leap; others rumble the milk in gleaming cans.
10 Boys indolent-eyed from baskets leaning back Question each face; a man with a hammer steals Stooping from coach to coach; with clang and clack Touches and tests and listens to the wheels.
Guard sounds a warning whistle points to the clock 15 With brandished flag and on his folded flock Claps the last door: the monster grunts: ¡®Enough!¡¯ Tightening his load of links with pant and puff.
Under the arch then forth into blue day Glide the processional windows on their way 20 And glimpse the stately folk who sit at ease To view the world like kings taking the seas in prosperous weather: drifting banners tell Their progress to the counties; with them goes The clamour of their journeying; while those 25 Who sped them stand to wave a last farewell.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

A Wanderer

WHEN Watkin shifts the burden of his cares
And all that irked him in his bound employ 
Once more become a vagrom-hearted boy 
He moves to roundelays and jocund airs;
Loitering with dusty harvestmen he shares 5
Old ale and sunshine; or with maids half-coy 
Pays court to shadows; fools himself with joy 
Shaking a leg at junketings and fairs.
Sometimes returning down his breezy miles A snatch of wayward April he will bring 10 Piping the daffodilly that beguiles Foolhardy lovers in the surge of spring.
And then once more by lanes and field-path stiles Up the green world he wanders like a king.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

The Heritage

CRY out on Time that he may take away
Your cold philosophies that give no hint
Of spirit-quickened flesh; fall down and pray
That Death come never with a face of flint:
Death is our heritage; with Life we share 5
The sunlight that must own his darkening hour:
Within his very presence yet we dare
To gather gladness like a fading flower.
For even as this our joy not long may live Perfect; and most in change the heart can trace 10 The miracle of life and human things: All we have held to destiny we give; Dawn glimmers on the soul-forsaken face; Not we but others hear the bird that sings.
Written by Siegfried Sassoon | Create an image from this poem

The Tombstone-Maker

 He primmed his loose red mouth and leaned his head 
Against a sorrowing angel’s breast, and said: 
‘You’d think so much bereavement would have made 
‘Unusual big demands upon my trade.
‘The War comes cruel hard on some poor folk; ‘Unless the fighting stops I’ll soon be broke.
’ He eyed the Cemetery across the road.
‘There’s scores of bodies out abroad, this while, ‘That should be here by rights.
They little know’d ‘How they’d get buried in such wretched style.
’ I told him with a sympathetic grin, That Germans boil dead soldiers down for fat; And he was horrified.
‘What shameful sin! ‘O sir, that Christian souls should come to that!’
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Suicide In The Trenches

 I knew a simple soldier boy 
Who grinned at life in empty joy, 
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, 
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum, With crumps and lice and lack of rum, He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you'll never know The hell where youth and laughter go.
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Today

 This is To-day, a child in white and blue 
Running to meet me out of Night who stilled 
The ghost of Yester-eve; this is fair Morn 
The mother of To-morrow.
And these clouds That chase the sunshine over gleaming hills Are thoughts, delighting in the golden change And the ceremony of their drifting state.
This is To-day.
To-morrow might bring death,— And Life, the gleeful madrigal of birds, Be drowned in glimmer of sleep.
To-day I know How sweet it is to spend these eyes, and boast This bubble of vistaed memory and sense Blown by my joy aloft the glittering airs Of heavenly peace.
Oh take me to yourselves, Earth, sky, and spirit! Let me stand within The circle of your transience, that my voice May thrill the lonely silences with song.