The Lost Generation : World War I Poetry : Siegfried Sassoon

Sassoon's The One-Legged Man from The Old Huntsman.


The poet Siegfried Sassoon, recipient of the Military Cross for acts of heroism, became famous not only for his angry and candid war poems, but also for his open letter of protest to the War Department after being wounded in action. “I believe that this War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it,” he wrote, and after the letter was read aloud in the House of Commons, Sassoon expected to be court-martialed. Once the poet Robert Graves intervened, claiming that Sassoon was suffering from shell-shock. Sassoon was then sent to a facility for mentally infirm soldiers, where he later mentored Wilfred Owen. The poem “The One-Legged Man” represents one of Sassoon’s more bitterly ironic poems in which a man blesses the fortunes of one horror—his own amputation—since it spares him the greater horror of further military service. Doubtless the story resonates with Sassoon’s own, where his patriotism as a citizen of England became subordinate to more peaceful allegiances as a “citizen of life.” The irony of the poem suggests one man’s limitation is another’s mobility, his reinstated power to “choose.” 

Find The Old Huntsman, Counter-Attack, and The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon in the UNT Library Catalog.