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On this day in 1886 the English poet Siegfried Sassoon was born.
Sassoon was christened Siegfried because his mother loved Wagner’s opera. He is chiefly remembered for his poetry of the First World War, such as The General and Everyone Sang, which combined with pathos the triviality and horror of the times.
Sassoon distinguished himself by several insane sounding acts of bravery such as taking a German trench single handed then staying there for an hour to read poetry. He won the Military Cross but was later placed in a mental hospital with shell shock where he befriended the poet Wilfred Owen.
Surviving the war, he also wrote novels and biographies including the well-received Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man, and died aged 81.
Here is a famous poem of his
Everyone SangEveryone suddenly burst out singing;And I was filled with such delightAs prisoned birds must find in freedom,Winging wildly across the whiteOrchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;And beauty came like the setting sun:My heart was shaken with tears; and horrorDrifted away … O, but EveryoneWas a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
Today I give thanks for the human spirit that can give poetry preference over fighting.