The NS First World War poems: Siegfried Sassoon

Sassoon (or “Sashûn”, as he signed himself here) was one of only a handful of Great War poets who survived the fighting. This poem was first published in the New Statesman of 22 May 1926.

To One Who Was With Me in the War

It was too long ago—that Company which we served with . . .
We call it back in visual fragments, you and I,
Who seem, ourselves, like relics casually preserved, with
Our mindfulness of old bombardments when the sky
With blundering din blinked cavernous.
                Yet a sense of power
Invades us when, recapturing an ungodly hour
Of ante-zero crisis, in one thought we’ve met
To stand in some redoubt of Time,—to share again
All but the actual wetness of the flare-lit rain,
All but the living presences who haunt us yet
With gloom-patrolling eyes.
                Remembering, we forget
Much that was monstrous, much that clogged our souls with clay
When hours were guides who led us by the longest way—
And when the worst had been endured could still disclose
Another worst to thwart us . . .
                We forget our fear . . .
And, while the uncouth Event begins to lour less near,
Discern the mad magnificence whose storm-light throws
Wild shadows on these after-thoughts that send your brain
Back beyond Peace, exploring sunken ruinous roads.
Your brain, with files of flitting forms, hump-backed with loads,
On its own helmet hears the tinkling drops of rain,—
Follows to an end some night-relief, and strangely sees
The quiet no-man’s-land of day-break, jagg’d with trees
That loom like giant Germans . . .
                I’ll go with you, then,
Since you must play this game of ghosts. At listening-posts
We’ll peer across dim craters; joke with jaded men
Whose names we’ve long forgotten. (Stoop low here; it’s the place
The sniper enfilades.) Round the next bay you’ll meet
A drenched platoon-commander; chilled, he drums his feet
On squelching duck-boards; winds his wrist-watch; turns his head,
And shows you how you looked,—your ten-years-vanished face
Hoping the War will end next week . . .
                What’s that you said?
                            Sigma Sashûn

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Who was Franz Ferdinand?

Getty
Show Hide image

Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Karen Bradley as Culture Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.