The Linnet's Wings The Sorrow - Page 81

1918-2018 Has it ever happened to you? A spontaneous combustion of song? It has to me and I have never forgotten the wonder of that experience. We were a family of singers, and maybe that’s part of why I love this poem. But as I became more familiar with it, I was struck more and more by an essence it embodies. I’ll call it ‘birdness’. At the beginning of the 20th Century, it was an accustomed thing that communal singing took place. The men in the trenches would have sung around a piano at home or in the pub, sung marching songs in training, and popular songs like Pack Up Your Troubles and of course hymns in church. Church attendance was high. Belief in God and Country walked hand in hand. It was only natural then, they should sing to lift their spirits and Siegfried Sassoon would have been familiar with this so: Everyone suddenly burst out singing; And I was filled with such delight probably really happened at some point. On the face of it, this is a simple statement of joy, and the poem reads almost as an armistice celebration taking place on the battlefield, but it is not that. “Everyone Sang” is dated 12/4/19. On 13 July 1918, Sassoon was wounded by friendly fire near Arras. As a result, he spent the remainder of the war in England. The poem plays to an audience of people celebrating the end of the war and a return to normal life but there is something much rarer, more poignant, more telling in this poem. Before the war he led a fairly privileged life. He left Cambridge without a degree. He had a small private income. He liked to write poetry. In A Mystic as Soldier he says: I lived my days apart, Dreaming fair songs for God; not of God but for God, mind you. He believed in God and Country and took his beliefs as seriously as any other. The war changed all that. It made him question what happened to ‘love thine enemy’ (Matt 5). Now God is in the strife, And I must seek Him there, Where death outnumbers life, And fury smites the air. Men on all sides were fighting, killing each other for God and Country and that didn’t make sense. In Siegfried Sassoon’s Diaries 1915-1918 he asks: “The agony of France! The agony of Austria-Hungary and Germany! Are not those equal before God?” 81