Introduction

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was destined by his mother to be a poet.  Growing up in Kent and Sussex he followed country pursuits and published some verse in private pamphlets.  In the trenches in the First World War, he began to write the poetry for which he is remembered; his bleak realism, his contempt for war leaders and patriotic cant, and his compassion for his comrades found expression in a body of work that was initially not considered acceptable for public viewing.

In 1917 Sassoon was dispatched as shell-shocked to Craighlockhart War Hospital in Scotland and into the care of Army Psychiatrist William Rivers.  There he encountered, and encouraged, the poet Wilfred Owen.  Sassoon published further volumes of poetry in the 1920s finally establishing for himself a high reputation.

Meanwhile, he was also achieving success as a prose writer.  His semi-autobiographical trilogy - Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928), Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930), and Sherston's progress (1936) relate the story of a lonely boy whose main pursuits are cricket and hunting, who then finds himself as a junior officer in the trenches of World War One and begins his journey into adulthood.

Drabble, Margaret. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th edition. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Autumn by Siegfried Sassoon

October's bellowing anger breaks and cleaves
The bronzed battalions of the stricken wood
In whose lament I hear a voice that grieves
For battle’s fruitless harvest, and the feud
Of outraged men. Their lives are like the leaves
Scattered in flocks of ruin, tossed and blown
Along the westering furnace flaring red.
O martyred youth and manhood overthrown,
The burden of your wrongs is on my head.

From Attack and Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918)