These Diaries, of Poet Siegfried Sassoon, Capture the Chaos of WWI | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Siegfried Sassoon (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS)

These Diaries, of Poet Siegfried Sassoon, Capture the Chaos of WWI

Siegfried Sassoon's poems captured life in the trenches of WWI

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Some of Siegfried Sassoon's diaries still bear marks of mud and candle wax from World War I.  An officer in the British forces, Sassoon was also a poet—among the group whose work vividly captured the horror of the war. Sassoon received the Military Cross for heroic actions, but he soon grew disillusioned. His fervent dislike of war came through in his poetry, which captured the horror of the front lines:

They leave their trenches, going over the top, 
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, 
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists, 
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!
—Siegfried Sassoon, Attack, 1918 

Now, his actual diaries, which include sketches, notes, and poems from his time in the trenches, are available to the public online, digitized by the Cambridge University Library. The diaries were considered extremely fragile, and until now, were only made available to Sassoon’s official biographer. As librarian Anne Jarvis told the BBC:

"From his 'Soldier's Declaration' to his eyewitness accounts of the first day of battle on the Somme, the Sassoon archive is a collection of towering importance, not just to historians, but to anyone seeking to understand the horror, bravery and futility of the First World War as experienced by those on the front lines and in the trenches," said Ms Jarvis.

Sassoon survived the war, though he was wounded at least twice. He lived until 1967.

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