Sunday, May 14, 2017


In an article he wrote for Vanity Fair in 1920, Siegfried Sassoon attempted what he called a “benevolent neutrality” between “those poets who hated the Germans and didn’t altogether disapprove of the war, and those who hated the war and didn’t altogether disapprove of the Germans”. It is good to be reminded – and by a soldier poet – that “no poet could see straight in 1914. They could only strike attitudes and strive for effective gestures” – often of a kind, Sassoon went on to argue, that raised doubts about “the immediate future of war poetry as a sublimated art”. “The Lover in Wartime” by Lascelles Abercrombie (1881–1938) was one of the few poems which, in Sassoon’s opinion, sounded a “note of detachment from the national antagonisms and racial stampedings of the moment”.(TLS)

The Lover in Wartime

I heard it in the night
When there was no sound;I saw it flowering bright
On bare frozen ground.
When all the rest were blind
I knew where visions were;
And sleep to bless my mind
Amid uproar and glare.

But now that all the lands
Are monstrous with a crime,
Love a great Angel stands
Looking far beyond Time,
Facing eternal light,
With war beneath his spurn!
And fiercer on his sight
Doth Heavenly Beauty burn,
And higher he holds his head
For the changeless sun to crown,
The more his feet must tread
The bloody madness down.


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