Poems men should know – part 3 – Base Details, Siegfried Sassoon

A friends son is doing a state exam this year. I was in my friends house and saw a copy of his English book and so decided to check if the poems I studied in school are still part of the curriculum. Sure enough, I rediscovered this poem by Siegfried Sassoon. I remember being introduced to this poet by my English teacher in third year. In this poem the poet condemns officers indifference to soldiers on the front line while they guzzle and gulp at the best hotels!

Like so many of Sassoon’s poems “Base Details” is sarcastic and utterly derisive of the establishment that supported the continuation of the Great War while displaying little regard for the soldiers who had to fight in it. Sassoon served for the British Army during the Great War so had first hand experience of this. Perhaps things haven’t changed that much?

Base Details by Siegfried Sassoon

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well.
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die — in bed.

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