Siegfried Sassoon: The reluctant hero
"Cambridge University is on the verge of securing Siegfried Sassoon's personal papers for posterity – his unpublished poems and letters are more relevant than ever, says Michael Morpurgo"
The article includes this undated poem, "just a scrap torn from a notebook":
Can I forget the voice of one who criedSassoon's July 1917 Soldier's Declaration, according to Morpurgo, "was published in newspapers and read out in the Commons; it very nearly got him executed." I imagine the same furor would erupt today. I wish it would.
For me to save him, save him, as
I will remember you, and from
Shall rise the power and the
poignance of my songs
And this shall comfort me until
That I have been your captain and
A Soldier's Declaration
I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects witch actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerity's for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise.