Siegried Sassoon’s use of imagery within his poetry is extremely vivid, and masterly done so that image lingers in the reader’s mind. For instance in two short stanzas in his poem “To His Dead Body”, he describes a soldier experiencing death. He writes in his first two lines, “When roaring gloom surges inward and you cried,/ Groping for the friendly hands, and clutched, and died” (1-2). Sassoon does not hesitate to explain what is happening. This is because dying is not the act he wants to capture. Instead, he suggests that the act of death cannot be equivalent to any experience, including the act of watching. He writes, “Yet, though my dreams that throng the darkened stair/ Can bring me no report of how you fare” (5-6). In other words, no matter how hard I imagine taking that dark step in life, I can never know what happens because no one comes back to describe the experience.
What I also enjoyed noticing in “To His Dead Body” is the idea the text suggest is that death is an ascendance rather than decent into the ground. This is a major theme throughout the poem because of the consistent notions of rising. For example, he uses words such as “smoke”, “stair”, “Up”, and “Slow-rising”. I believe this is interesting because it allows the poem to reflect the idea of a type of release that death would simulate. The idea of the last breathe, or even the soul rising from the lungs is intertwined throughout the poem, but the concept of burial isn’t suggested anywhere. So not only does the poem offer ideas of a type of ascendance, but it neglects to mention the traditional ritual following death. I believe this is because of the war, thousands of bodies were not allowed the luxury of a proper burial. So in order to have some solace of the coming death is look at the bright. If you’re going to go down, then might as well go up.