Note: Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen were three of the best known among the soldier poets of World War One. Sassoon and Graves went on to have fine literary careers after the war ended. Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, one week before the Armistice that ended hostilities.
Dear Mr. Sassoon,
I was devastated to learn of your survival. I understand you wrote a poem to Robert of the expectant moment of your death; I share your disappointment that you were only slightly wounded. It seems that you, and Robert as well, are destined to survive the war. But will your poetry?
There is great irony in your return to the front to die. You came to believe that those who were running the show were intentionally dragging it out, and became so vocal about it that you came under fire at home for your views, which removed you from the fire at the front. And still, when the dust had settled, you went back.
I have always wondered if, secretly, you hated Robert from saving you from court-martial by convincing the authorities you were suffering from shell shock. Would you rather have had the pulpit even to your ruin? Or are you content to see the very blighters you satirize endorsing your brilliance?
Of course, if you had not been sent to Craiglockhart for shell shock, you never would have met Wilfred Owen, or he you – and poetry might never have taken the turn it did. For that, you owe Robert dearly, and so do all of us.
Yet the war went on and on, even after you went back into the fight. It must have become so desperate for you, watching the slaughter day after day. You must have reached that point, you know – nothing matters; nothing changes; it’s all for naught; I don’t need to be here anymore. My words are lost; they turn my protests into pro-war propaganda.
But you survived all that. The bullet missed. The bullet did not miss Wilfred; his loss must have deepened your despair. My question is this: just when did hope return?
Roy Blokker was born in the Netherlands, grew up in California, and now lives in Northwest Montana with his wife of forty years and counting. His work has appeared in several magazines, including Black Heart, Clever, Highlights for Children and Fear of Monkeys. Poet, historian, novelist and blogger, Roy is the author of seven books, including poetry volumes Banned in Boston and Charles Sorley’s Ghost, and the novel, Amber Waves. Visit his author page on Amazon.com or catch his blog, “The Wish I Was Flying Dutchman,” at royblokker.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter.