'Dreamers' by Siegfried Sassoon
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Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
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.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Dreamers by Siegfried Sassoon: An Analysis of War, Dreams, and Escape
What is it that makes us dream? Why do we seek refuge in our subconscious mind? Is it the fear of the unknown or the longing for a better reality? Siegfried Sassoon's poem, Dreamers, explores these questions through the lens of war and the soldiers who fought in it. This 1917 poem is a poignant depiction of the human desire for escape, even in the midst of the most brutal conditions.
Context and Background
Before we delve into the poem itself, some context is necessary. Siegfried Sassoon was a British poet and soldier who fought in World War I. He saw first-hand the horrors of trench warfare and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery. However, Sassoon became disillusioned with the war and began to speak out against it. He wrote poetry that criticized the military leadership and the propaganda that encouraged young men to enlist. His writing earned him the nickname "Mad Jack" and led to him being sent to a psychiatric hospital for a time.
Dreamers was written during this period of Sassoon's life, after he had become disillusioned with the war. It is a reflection of his own experiences as well as those of the soldiers he fought alongside.
Dreamers is a six-stanza poem with a rhyme scheme of ABCCBA. The poem begins with a vivid description of the soldiers as they sit in the trenches, waiting for the next attack:
"Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows."
Sassoon uses the metaphor of death's gray land to describe the trenches, which were often muddy and desolate. The soldiers are "drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows," meaning that they have no hope for the future. They are stuck in a cycle of violence and death, with no end in sight.
The second stanza introduces the idea of dreams as a means of escape:
"In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows."
Here, Sassoon acknowledges that the soldiers are not united in their fight. They each have their own personal grievances and struggles. However, in their dreams, they are able to escape these divisions and find common ground. Sassoon writes:
"Soldiers are dreaming of a world to come,
They take their dole of death and dream of home."
The soldiers are able to "take their dole of death," meaning that they accept their fate as soldiers and are willing to die for their country. However, in their dreams, they are transported back to the safety and comfort of their homes. Sassoon writes:
"They mother comfort in a womb of things."
This line is particularly powerful because it shows that the soldiers are seeking comfort in something that is inherently feminine. The womb represents safety and protection, something that is absent in the trenches.
The third stanza introduces the idea of escape through death:
"They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky."
Here, Sassoon describes the soldiers leaving the safety of their homes and entering a world of destruction. He uses the metaphor of the sky blossoming to describe the explosions and gunfire that surround them. The soldiers are willingly entering this world because they believe that death will provide them with escape.
The fourth stanza continues this theme of death as an escape:
"In the blow for breath against the thing they may,
Even while they write, their past is being slain."
Sassoon is saying that even as the soldiers write letters home or reflect on their past, they are being inexorably drawn towards death. He writes:
"They have no lot in mortal things; their days
Are cracked across by trenches, and their ways
Are filled with dying;"
The soldiers are disconnected from the mortal world and are fully immersed in the violence and death of the trenches.
The fifth stanza introduces the idea of the soldiers being separated from their true selves:
"They leave their pride behind, and hope, and fear,
And dear domestic things.
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going
Secretly armed against all death's endeavour;"
Sassoon is saying that the soldiers are forced to leave their true selves behind when they enter the war. They are stripped of their pride, hope, and fear, and are left with nothing but violence and death. However, Sassoon suggests that there is a way to escape this fate. He writes:
"Safe shall be my going,"
This line is particularly powerful because it suggests that there is a way to escape the violence and death of war. Sassoon is saying that even in the face of death, there is a way to find safety.
The final stanza brings the poem full circle, returning to the idea of dreams as a means of escape:
"And past the tinkling of the guitar
That wakens thoughts of home,
Past women's chatter and the clatter of feet
That brings the regiment back into the town."
Sassoon is saying that even as the soldiers march back into town, they are still dreaming of home. They are still seeking refuge from the violence and death they have experienced.
Themes and Interpretation
Dreamers is a poem that explores the themes of war, dreams, and escape. Sassoon is saying that even in the face of violence and death, there is a human desire for escape. The soldiers in the poem are seeking refuge in their dreams, where they can find comfort and safety in the midst of chaos.
The poem is also a criticism of war and the propaganda that encourages young men to enlist. Sassoon is saying that war is not a glorious adventure, but a brutal and dehumanizing experience. He is critical of the military leadership and the governments that send young men to die for their country.
Finally, the poem is a reflection of Sassoon's own experiences as a soldier. He saw first-hand the horrors of trench warfare and the toll it took on the soldiers. He was disillusioned with the war and spoke out against it, even at the risk of being labeled a traitor.
Dreamers is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of war, dreams, and escape. Sassoon's use of vivid imagery and powerful metaphors creates a picture of the soldiers as they sit in the trenches, waiting for the next attack. The poem is a reflection of Sassoon's own experiences as a soldier and his criticism of the war and the governments that send young men to die for their country.
In the end, Dreamers is a reminder that even in the face of violence and death, there is a human desire for escape. The soldiers in the poem are seeking refuge in their dreams, where they can find comfort and safety in the midst of chaos. It is a poignant and powerful message that resonates with readers even today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Dreamers: A Poem of Hope and Despair
Siegfried Sassoon’s Dreamers is a classic poem that captures the essence of the First World War. The poem is a powerful commentary on the horrors of war and the impact it has on the human psyche. It is a poem of hope and despair, of longing and loss, of dreams and nightmares. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in the poem to understand its deeper meaning.
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a distinct tone and message. The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the main theme of the poem – the contrast between the reality of war and the dreams of the soldiers. The soldiers are described as “dreamers” who are lost in their own thoughts and fantasies. They are “marching” but their minds are elsewhere, dreaming of home, loved ones, and a life beyond the war. The imagery used in this stanza is powerful and evocative. The soldiers are described as “ghosts” who are “haunting” the landscape. This creates a sense of unease and foreboding, as if the soldiers are already dead and are just waiting for their bodies to catch up.
The second stanza is a stark contrast to the first. It is a brutal reminder of the reality of war and the horrors that the soldiers face every day. The imagery used in this stanza is graphic and disturbing. The soldiers are described as “bleeding” and “dying” on the battlefield. The “guns” and “shells” are personified as “devils” who are “laughing” at the soldiers’ pain and suffering. This creates a sense of hopelessness and despair, as if the soldiers are trapped in a never-ending cycle of violence and death.
The third stanza is a return to the theme of hope and longing. The soldiers are once again described as “dreamers” but this time their dreams are of a better future. They dream of a world without war, where they can live in peace and freedom. The imagery used in this stanza is uplifting and inspiring. The soldiers are described as “heroes” who are “fighting” for a better world. This creates a sense of optimism and hope, as if the soldiers’ sacrifices are not in vain.
The language used in the poem is simple and direct, but it is also rich in symbolism and metaphor. The soldiers are described as “ghosts” and “dreamers” to emphasize their detachment from reality. They are not fully present in the moment, but are lost in their own thoughts and fantasies. The guns and shells are personified as “devils” to emphasize their destructive power and the sense of evil that surrounds them. The soldiers’ dreams of a better future are described as a “light” that shines in the darkness. This creates a sense of hope and optimism, as if the soldiers’ sacrifices are not in vain.
The poem is also rich in sound and rhythm. The repetition of the word “dreamers” creates a sense of unity and solidarity among the soldiers. The use of alliteration and assonance creates a musical quality to the poem, which adds to its emotional impact. The poem is written in free verse, which gives it a natural and spontaneous feel. This makes the poem more accessible and relatable to the reader.
In conclusion, Dreamers is a powerful and moving poem that captures the essence of the First World War. It is a poem of hope and despair, of longing and loss, of dreams and nightmares. The poem is a reminder of the sacrifices that soldiers make in times of war, and the impact that war has on the human psyche. The poem is also a call to action, urging us to work towards a better future where war is no longer a reality. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the human experience and to inspire us to make a difference in the world.
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