The poets and the world war: "Dreamers" by Siegfried Sassoon

Sigfried Sassoon (1886 - 1967)
For the second time we choose a poem by Sigfried Sassoon. Last time it was Sick Leave. Today poem, always from The War Poems, is probably not so popular but it represents a way to introduce and to launch a promising and unexplored topic, that could be developed into many directions (new books and studies, researches both in the literature side but also the scientific and medical side of the story, etc.): the dreams of the First World War soldiers and their dreamlike activities. And the title itself is unquestionable: Dreamers. The turning line of the poem is the eleventh, where it says they are "Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats", before leaving you with the normality of the final images, so normal and gray like the images taken from everyday life in the trenches. Two normalities overlapping, war time and peace time, creating a shocking and racking sense of disbelief welded by a clockwork rhyme scheme.


Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
  Drawing no dividend from time's tomorrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
  Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win
  Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
  They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
  And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
  And mocked by hopeless longing to regain    
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,    
  And going to the office in the train.

(Published in the hospital paper, the Hydra, 1 September 1917.)