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Sam Lenthall

on 17 June 2015

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Transcript of COUNTER ATTACK by Siegfried SASSOON

BY siegfried sassoon
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (8/09/1886 - 1/09/1967) was an English war poet, writer and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and mocked the those who, in Sassoon's view, were responsible for the war. Sassoon was admitted to military psychiatric hospital; this resulted in his forming friendship with another influential war poet Wifred Owen, who greatly influenced his poetry work.
Who is speaking and why?
What atmosphere does the poem create?
When was the poem written in Sassoon's life?
Why was 'Counter Attack' written?
How does Sassoon structure his poems?
Who is speaking and why?
What atmosphere does the poem create?
When was the poem written in Sassoon's life?
Why was 'Counter Attack' written?
How does Sassoon structure his poems?
by Siegfried Sassoon
We’d gained our first objective hours before
While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,
Pallid, unshaven and thirsty, blind with smoke.
Things seemed all right at first. We held their line,
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.
The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs
High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps
And trunks, face downward, in the sucking mud,
Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled;
And naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair,
Bulged, clotted heads slept in the plastering slime.
And then the rain began,—the jolly old rain!

A yawning soldier knelt against the bank,
Staring across the morning blear with fog;
He wondered when the Allemands would get busy;
And then, of course, they started with five-nines
Traversing, sure as fate, and never a dud.
Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst
Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,
While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.
He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,
Sick for escape,—loathing the strangled horror
And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.

An officer came blundering down the trench:
“Stand-to and man the fire step!” On he went …
Gasping and bawling, “Fire-step ... counter-attack!”
Then the haze lifted. Bombing on the right
Down the old sap: machine-guns on the left;
And stumbling figures looming out in front.
“O Christ, they’re coming at us!” Bullets spat,
And he remembered his rifle ... rapid fire ...
And started blazing wildly ... then a bang
Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out
To grunt and wriggle: none heeded him; he choked
And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom,
Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans ...
Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death. The counter-attack had failed.
- Never ending Stanzas - horror
The length of the stanzas
- length and boredom of war was for soldiers. Length implies horror could not be told within a short poem, but needs many words to show the horror.
- feeling of death when necessary. Did the generals actually think of risk and reward?
- the poem shows signs of description, describing what the front line in WWI was really like.
- The generals are described to be ordering the soldiers when realistically they aren't putting their own lives at risk;
An officer came blundering down the trench: “Stand-to and man the fire step!” On he went…Gasping and bawling, “Fire-step... counter-attack!”
Soldiers speech
- PERSONAL FEELING, shows reality of the war.
- Creates imagery for the audience.
For dialogue
- effectively make the readers feel the intensity of war at the same time, recalling a sense of turmoil and discomfort when reading the poem.
Truth of WWI
- Sassoon's work could really publish the full detail and events of WWI.
Told a story
- the poem tells the reader a story and engages and describes using senses. World War poetry was usually used for a combination of telling the truth of the war and telling war stories, Counter Attack being one of them.
Different perspective
- Sassoon was known for poetry from the soldier perspective on the war, making his writing so powerful. This gave meaning and a story to the poem.
May 1918
- Sassoon was 31 at the time of writing this poem, and was mentally ill in a military psychiatric hospital from his mental scars of WWI.
Impact of WWI at the time
- May 1918 was the back-end of World War I, as it ended in the November of that year. May saw the start of some peace treaties being signed between countries, signifying the destruction of WWI slowing down.
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