July 22, 2010

Another Reason to Visit England This Fall

Oh, how I want to be in England this fall.  First, there's the Pope's visit, and beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman.  (More here.)  And now this: the first public display of the papers of one of my favorite 20th Century poets, Siegfried Sassoon.  
The tiny black notebook in which the poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote his Soldier's Declaration, a shout of rage against the first world war which could have cost his career or even his life when it was read aloud in parliament, goes on display for the first time today.  The notebook, still stained with the mud of the trenches, will be displayed at Cambridge University near his diary recalling his first day in the carnage of the Somme, and the telegram summoning him to Army HQ when his declaration became public.

I discovered Sassoon in my 20th Century Catholic Literature class, taught by Joseph Pearce.  He was, in fact, the only author we studied who I did not already know, and I immediately fell in love.  I don't know much about Sassoon's life, except that he wrote sharply and bitterly about WWI, and that he became a Roman Catholic very late in his life.  And, I am shocked that I have not yet posted my favorite of his poems.  It's high time I do so:

THEN a wind blew;
And he who had forgot he moved
Lonely amid the green and silver morning weather,
Suddenly grew
Aware of clouds and trees       
Gleaming and white and shafted, shaken together
And blown to music by the ruffling breeze.
Like flush of wings
The moment passed: he stood
Dazzled with blossom in the swaying wood;
Then he remembered how, through all swift things,
This mortal scene stands built of memories,—
Shaped by the wise
Who gazed in breathing wonderment,
And left us their brave eyes
To light the ways they went.

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