Poem: "They"

The British poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) fought in the First World War, in the front lines of the western front. He was one of the few soldiers who made a public protest against the war. Sassoon opposed the pretty picture of war that some of his contemporaries drew. He wanted to show the horrors of war and the soldiers that were its victims. This poem was written in 1916.

First World War memorial First World War memorial

 

“They”

By Siegfried Sassoon

 

The Bishop tells us: “When the boys come back

They will not be the same; for they’ll have fought

In a just cause: they lead the last attack

On Anti-Christ; their comrades’ blood has bought

New right to breed an honourable race,

They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.”

 

“We’re none of us the same!” the boys reply.

“For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;

Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die;

And Bert’s gone syphilitic: you’ll not find

A chap who’s served that hasn’t found some change.”

And the Bishop said: “The ways of God are strange!”

 

TASKS

  1. There is a strong contrast in this poem between the viewpoint of the Bishop and the boys. Describe this contrast.
  2. How would you compare this poem to "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen (see page 290 of your textbook)?