Today we have another World War 1 poem, from Siegfried Sassoon. But unlike the other poems from this time posted here, from such as Sassoon himself, Yeats and Apollinaire, this poem is not so much about the immediate horror and absurdity of life in the trenches. Instead it draws attention to the aftermath of war and the fate of those who come home wounded and incapacitated in some way. They are a constant and permanent reminder of the effects of war, both to themselves and to those around them. This is very relevant today as wounded veterans continue to come back from such places as Afghanistan and Iraq. And of course, their wound might not be just physical – the psychological impact of war is now better understood than it was in Sassoon’s day, when shell-shock was too often interpreted as cowardice.
The title of the poem “Does it Matter” seems to be a direct reference to the absurdity of the situation which led to the horrific injuries described.
Does It Matter?
Does it matter? -losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing your sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.
The poem seems to be written from the point of view of an ex-soldier who has lost his legs or his eyes. He cannot participate in the activities of normal life – such as hunting, but people will be kind and you can spend your time drinking and remembering. People will tolerate your behaviour as an ex-soldier who has served his country. Sassoon himself must have experienced this type of reaction, as, although not physically wounded, he was severely psychologically scarred by his time in the war. The idea is that these ex-soldiers are no longer part of mainstream society, they are marginalised and tolerated, rather than re-integrated. Just one more reason for these soldiers to question whether it was all worthwhile.
The Poetry Dude