poet acknowledged he had the audacity to write. Mr. Sassoon expressed his regret that some people had found in this poem an argument in favour of prohibition. He himself naively admitted that he was not averse to taking a drink, especially before he began a reading such as he gave last night, at which, by the way, the audience was preponderantly women.
For half an hour Mr. Sassoon went on in this charmingly intimate way, reading the lighter of his verses and introducing each with some quaint turn of expression. There was his impressionistic thing on John Barrymore’s appearance in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III.,’ which Mr. Sassoon said was ‘more armor than Shakespeare,’ and in which the characters seemed to die in clashing brassware.
Then followed three exquisite vignettes of England and her poplar trees, her hedges, the thrushes and larks, and the moon, which ‘are to show you that I do enjoy a decent piece of scenery,’ the poet exclaimed parenthetically.
Other poems of this class were one he called ‘Limitations,’ and before reading it he said he didn’t know what his audience would make of it. Neither would an observer. ‘Early Chronology’ was more obvious and was good fun with its satire at those men who guide sleepy students through the scientific spaces of excavated history. The last of this group was one called ‘Sporting acquaintances,’ in connection with which Mr. Sassoon confessed that before the war he was quite a wild young man. Finishing this poem, he laughed quietly and said, ‘But this isn’t a lecture at all, is it? Perhaps you have all come here under false pretenses. There should be some arrangement for having money refunded and that sort of thing! Well, I’ll give you a little rest now,’ and down he sat for several minutes.
Forging Ahead Among Literati
That was one side of their refreshing English youth who has a splendid military record behind him and is now forging his way ahead in the literary world. It was a delight to listen to his musical voice and his perfect diction as he read those poems of his which were written in the quiet days before the war or in the time since demobilization. When he came to the war poems, by which (and these are his own words), ‘I became - became - well, became - known,’ he was a different man. There was no smile or humorous word of introduction for them. He did speak briefly before he turned to the war verse and in his few remarks one could realise the hatred he felt for the whole thing. ‘War,’ he said bitterly, ‘is not a sport or a game. It’s a business and requires business efficiency; it must be done as quickly and as well as possible.’
Hearers Can’t Get Enough
He read about twenty of his war poems, which he says fall into three classes: Satirical, descriptive and retrospective. Through all of them runs the note of protest at the killing of men and the horror and brutality of fighting. The poet was particular to declare that there was no propaganda in his verse, nor is there anywhere even a faint suggestion of the philosophy of a pacifist. Among the most impressive of these poems were ‘In the Pink,’ ‘Does it Matter?’ ‘Suicide in the Trenches,’ ‘To Any Dead Officer,’ ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Some Looks at the War.’ [Was this last one a general discussion about his war experiences? No such poem exists].
The audience was very frankly won by the clean-cut young Englishman last night and would have had him read on and on. He did do several poems that were requested, but then retired behind his table and piano stool and the most insistent of those in the hall, who were a good deal like Don Marquis’ ‘little crowd of serious thinkers,’ were forced to leave.”