Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.- ...
[ANTHOLOGY NOTE: This poem is in some ways representative of the selections that Stallworthy makes from Sassoon’s poetry in the OBOWP. Stallworthy describes Sassoon’s later war poems as “launched at the reader like a hand grenade” (), and this, written in 1916, fits the same billing. It is a cutting attack on the hypocrisy of authority and the kind of rhetoric used to encourage others to go abroad and fight. As such it stands special comparison with Sassoon’s own attack on the military leadership, ‘The General’ (), but also . Chesterton’s acerbic attack on the political class, ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’ ().]
Many items within the Library’s collections deserve to be highlighted. This may be because of their historical importance, uniqueness, beauty, fascinating content, or perhaps their personal associations. In this special collection within the Cambridge Digital Library we will draw together books, manuscripts and other items from across our collections that are especially significant. Many of them have been displayed in Library exhibitions in the past – now they can be accessed at any time, from anywhere in the world, and browsed cover to cover.