Reading reflections in the Bookinglass

An expat with a love of fiction

Winging wildly across the white – Tube Poetry

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“EVERYONE suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields;
on—on—and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.”
Siegfried Sassoon (Collected Poems, 1908-1956)

So this is the poem I saw on the tube this morning as my face was smooshed against the glass during rush hour, getting out my book was not a possibility so I read this instead expecting it to be some trite piece of shite. But I was WRONG. This is one of the best poems I have ever read. Only after I had read through it did I find Sassoon’s name (WWI poet) at the bottom and it was one of those ‘My god he is a genius with words no wonder his work is so famous’ moments. So kudos goes to whoever chose it to be placed in my eyeline as it vastly improved my day.

What I like most about this is the way that Sassoon uses run-of-the-mill imagery such as the ‘setting sun’ and the free birds, making it sound as if he is talking about light-hearted moment. But then the line ‘My heart was shaken with tears and horror drifted away…’ takes you unawares. What horror is he speaking of? Then I notice again the first line, using ‘suddenly burst’ conveys a violent action, (rapid gunfire?) with the harsh repeated sounds of ‘d’ and ‘b’. There is a dark side to this singing. The ‘prisoned birds’ may be free but they are not flying they are winging the sound of this word could be an attempt to mimic the action of a bird flapping its wings feebly and desparately. 

At first I thought this might be a poem about the end of the war but reflecting again I think that singing is a metaphor for souls, those who have been released from the horrors of life. This is about the end of a soldier’s life in the trenches, about death as a harmonious release. A very moving Monday morning read.

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Written by bookinglass

October 12, 2009 at 5:24 pm

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