The poets and the world war: "The Glory of Women" by Siegfried Sassoon

One of the international themes of First World War Centenary is the role of women during the warfare. This is logical if we consider the fact that the "Centenary mood" has to promote dialogue among different parts, countries and stakeholders through neutral topics or cross-cultural topics (like the role of women and children, the different and new technologies of war, the role of music in the different armies etc.). One of the limits of this approach is the guilty removal of all possible political arguments and discussions about that huge carnage. Anyway, the role of women remains a crucial aspect to take into consideration while studying the five years of the conflict. What we cannot allow is that the umbrella of political correctness hides the reality of testimony, even the one of literature and poetry. Take Siegfried Sassoon, for example. There’s no need to introduce him, he is for sure the most remembered and celebrated British “war poet”. Sassoon once wrote the sonnet “The Glory of Women” that you can read here below. And the image of women that we find there is in contrast with the image and role of women we are used to detect in the radars of Centenary speeches. This is just a foreword to the short poem and, moreover, an invitation to consider all the sides of our complex prism. Here Sassoon simply tells us that some women do not (or can not) understand the mental and materialistic condition of the modern war. Let's put it in this way: we do not know if Sassoon was right or wrong, but we can investigate considering also his standpoint.


You love us when we're heroes, home on leave,

Or wounded in a mentionable place.

You worship decorations; you believe

That chivalry redeems the war's disgrace.

You make us shells. You listen with delight,

By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.

You crown our distant ardours while we fight,

And mourn our laurelled memories when we're killed.

You can't believe that British troops “retire”

When hell's last horror breaks them, and they run,

Trampling the terrible corpses—blind with blood.

O German mother dreaming by the fire,

While you are knitting socks to send your son

His face is trodden deeper in the mud.

From Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918).