Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sassoon on the Armistice

 In his autobiography, Siegfried’s Journey, Sassoon gives an account of the writing of this poem:

"One evening in the middle of April I had an experience which seems worth describing for those who are interested in methods of poetic production. It was a sultry spring night. I was feeling dull-minded and depressed, for no assignable reason. After sitting lethargically in the ground-floor room for about three hours after dinner, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing for it but to take my useless brain to bed. On my way from the arm-chair to the door I stood by the writing-table. A few words floated into my head as though from nowhere. In those days I was always on the look-out for a lyric — I wish I could say the same for my present self — so I picked up a pencil and wrote the words on a sheet of note-paper. Without sitting down, I added a second line. It was if I were remembering rather than thinking. In this mindless manner I wrote down my poem in a few minutes. When it was finished I read it through, with no sense of elation, merely wondering how I had come to be writing a poem when feeling so stupid." (140)

Everyone Sang 
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.



  1. Great post. I love to compare this poem with May Wedderburn Cannan's on the singing that surrounded the Armistice:
    Paris, November 11, 1918 (for G.A.H.)

    Down on the boulevards the crowds went by,
    The shouting and the singing died away,
    And in the quiet we rose to drink the toasts,
    Our hearts uplifted to the hour, the Day:
    The King – the Army – Navy – the Allies –
    England – and Victory.
    And then you turned to me and with low voice
    (The tables were abuzz with revelry),
    ‘I have a toast for you and me,’ you said,
    And whispered ‘Absent,’ and we drank
    Our unforgotten Dead.
    But I saw Love go lonely down the years
    And when I drank, the wine was salt with tears.

    More on this poem can be read at

  2. I agree. Both poems have stopped me in my tracks!

    Yes, Wow!

    Thank you to all involved with today's "Roads........