Though Siegfried Sassoon lived a very long life, dying of natural causes at the age of eighty in 1967, he remains frozen, for posterity, somewhere in his late twenties, as an infantry officer in the trenches of the Western Front. Tall, elegant, rather mournful-looking—T. H. White said that he resembled a Borzoi hound—Sassoon epitomized the promise of the generation sacrificed on the battlefields of France, and spoke for it in verses that, along with those of his friends Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves, have forever defined the waste and the tragedy of trench warfare in the popular imagination.
A few of Sassoon’s most famous works have earned a permanent place in England’s poetic heritage. Here, for instance, is “The General,” written in 1917 when Sassoon was in a hospital recovering from wounds received at the Battle of the Somme: