Siegfried Sassoon – raging against the hell of war



Siegfried Sassoon was one of the most celebrated of the World War One poets and renowned for his fictionalised autobiography, the Sherston trilogy. Decorated for bravery as a soldier, he turned against the war and became a leading voice against the senseless slaughter.

“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.”

“The War Poems”

He spent time in a psychiatric hospital under Dr WR Rivers immortalised in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, where he formed a friendship with poet Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves. Sassoon was troubled by his sexuality, having affairs with Ivor Novello amongst others later on, though he did marry and have a child. Throughout his life he was plagued by nightmares and lived as one biographer put it ‘posthumously’ after the war, unable to leave it behind, dying ultimately at 81.

He fell out with Graves, after the publication of Graves’ war novel Goodbye to All That, written in a hurry to pay off Laura Riding’s hospital bills (see previous post), whom Sassoon disliked and disapproved of. Sassoon found the book factually inaccurate and insensitive in the confidences it broke.

Sassoon, born 8 September 1886, was a Sun Virgo on the focal point of a mini-Grand Trine sextile an unforgiving Mars in Scorpio and sextile Saturn in Cancer; with Uranus Jupiter in Libra trine Pluto in Gemini. There would have been a passing affection between the two men with Graves’ Venus conjunct Sassoon’s Sun but not destined to last since Graves’ chaotic and manipulative Neptune Pluto squared S’s Sun. G’s Mars was also conjunct S’s Mercury which would spark up irritation; and even more so G’s Uranus was in an explosive conjunction to S’s Mars. G’s expansive Jupiter was conjunct S’s which might have helped to lift Sassoon out of his unhappiness but he clearly felt that Graves was sloppy and careless.

Their relationship chart was fraught with a superficially friendly Venus Jupiter damped down by a conjunction with Saturn and all three squared an obsessive, tormented Neptune Pluto conjunction which was in turn in an aggravated trine to the composite Mars.

Graves wondered whether Sassoon was attracted to him, which is possible. And there may well have been writer’s envy mixed in since Graves’ book outsold Sassoon’s, though the Fox Hunting Man did win awards. Sassoon did sound as if he had Virgo’s nit-picking tendencies and his Mars in Scorpio wouldn’t help. Later biographers remarked that both men’s memoirs though very different each had their own merits. Both had exceptionally strong and fairly similar ‘writers’ 21st harmonics. With a destructive/military Mars Saturn T square; and a talented Grand Trine/Kite pulling into aspect Mercury Pluto and Mars.

The war scarred both of them deeply but Sassoon never seemed able to leave it behind.

2 thoughts on “Siegfried Sassoon – raging against the hell of war

  1. How could those who survived it not be affected by own great grandmother lost four sons in that war..only one came home. She never recovered. I doubt it was uncommon.

  2. After the war Sassoon became a friend of Edmund Blunden (1 November 1896 – 20 January 1974) a relationship which lasted with the odd haitus for the rest of their lives. Blunden spent more time on the western front than either Graves or Sassoon and experienced some of the bloodiest industrialised battles of the last two years of the Great War such as the Somme and Passchendaele. Despite seeing more action than any other British second world war poet apart from David Jones, he went through the entire conflict without a scratch. Blunden’s account of his Great War experiences The Undertones of War is regarded by many as the best of the post war memoirs. Blunden who was heterosexual and had many affairs with women was an unlikely friend for the homosexual Sassoon but both shared a love of cricket and the English countryside. Although he had a successful and distinguished post war academic career Blunden was even more tortured than Sasssoon by his experience of the war which according to his daughters increasingly haunted him in his old age.

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