Most of the poems by Siegfried Sassoon posted here have been overtly pessimistic and bleak commentaries on the misery and futility of war – specifically World War One, in which Sassoon served, observing the senseless suffering and death of the soldiers on both sides. This poem is different, it is about the joy of song, and there is only a fleeting, oblique reference to the war. It is not even clear what is the context of the singing, but that makes us use our imagination…Mine tells me it might be a poem for Armistice Day, 1918, when the war finally ended,
BY SIEGFRIED SASSOON
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
There is indeed a sense of universal joy at the turning of a page, a moment of transformation. The repetition on the word’s “everybody” and “suddenly” at the beginning of the first and second stanzas signal this – there is a spontaneous and widespread coming together in the joy of song as the caged birds become free and as the horror drifted away.
The expression of joy is spontaneous and infectious, but there is also a great sense of optimism coming through in the final line, “the singing will never be done”.
The Poetry Dude