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‘Jack fell as he’d have wished,’ the mother said, And folded up the letter that she’d read. ‘The Colonel writes so nicely.’ Something broke In the tired voice that quavered to a choke. She half looked up. ‘We mothers are so proud Of our dead soldiers.’ Then her face was bowed. Quietly the Brother Officer went out. He’d told the poor old dear some gallant lies That she would nourish all her days, no doubt For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyes Had shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy’ Because he’d been so brave, her glorious boy. He thought how ‘Jack’, cold-footed, useless swine, Had panicked down the trench that night the mine Went up at Wicked Corner; how he’d tried To get sent home, and how, at last, he died, Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care Except that lonely woman with white hair. --
Siegfried Sassoon (1886 – 1967) was an English poet, writer, and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches and satirized the patriotic pretensions of those who were responsible for the war. Sassoon became a focal point for dissent within the armed forces when he protested the war in his “Soldier’s Declaration” of 1917, culminating in his admission to a mental hospital. There he became friends with Wilfred Owen who was greatly influenced by him. Sassoon later won acclaim for his three-volume fictionalised autobiography, collectively known as the “Sherston trilogy”.