I'm back again from hell
With loathsome thoughts to sell;
Secrets of death to tell;
And horrors from the abyss.
Young faces bleared with blood,
Sucked down into the mud,
You shall hear things like this,
Till the tormented slain
Crawl round and once again,
With limbs that twist awry
Moan out their brutish pain,
As the fighters pass them by.
For you our battles shine
With triumph half-divine;
And the glory of the dead
Kindles in each proud eye.
But a curse is on my head,
That shall not be unsaid,
And the wounds in my heart are red,
For I have watched them die.
Back from the Somme in the spring of 1917, a shaken Siegfried Sassoon tries to convey the horror that is war to those still at home.
The title of the poem says it all. The term
warmonger is always used by people who are against war, implying that there are some who seem to find delight in creating fights. This is a speech on behalf of the victims of the trenches, aimed at those who made the decision of putting them there.
Blunt, short lines hit us heavily as Sassoon tries to describe the experiences he and countless other soldiers went through at the front. He wants to show that the imagined glory of the war in reality consists of mud, blood and death. It's easy to preach about heroism away from the frontlines. To the common soldier, everything is chaos which might end in death at any time.
Siegfried Sassoon himself probably started out as a believer in the necessity of the war. He volunteered for the army two days before the war was declared. However, he gradually changed his mind as he saw the pointless bloodshed that was happening just to capture a few acres of land.
To the Warmongers was written in April, 1917. It was later this year that Sassoon published A Soldier's Declaration in The Times. The article strongly condemned the war and could have gotten its author court martialled if his friends hadn't convinced the powers that be that he was shell-shocked and therefore mentally unstable. On the same day as the article was printed, the Passchendaele offensive was launched. Clearly, the warmongers still needed to get the message.