SASSOON, SIEGFRIED (1886-1967)
AUTOGRAPH REVISED MANUSCRIPT, IN EFFECT A DRAFT, OF HIS FIRST WORLD WAR POEM 'ATROCITIES', signed ('Siegfried Sassoon'), 15 lines basically in three four-line stanzas, the last line of the third stanza added in pencil with the three following lines scored through, preserving reconsidered readings, 1 page, small quarto, not dated [?1917]
You bragged how once your men in savage mood
Butchered some Saxon prisoners. That was good!
I trust you felt no pity when they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as prisoners should
An autograph letter signed with initials ('SS') accompanies the poem, dated 12 November [?1917] from Craiglockhart, the sanatorium in Edinburgh run by William Rivers where Sassoon was sent by a military medical board following his statement refusing to perform any further military duties. It is addressed to [C.K.] O[gden], editor of the Cambridge Magazine: 'You may or may not have heard Canadians & Australians airing their exploits in the murder line. I know of very atrocious cases. Only the other day an officer of a Scotch regiment, (one of the many "lead-swinging" cases here!) was regaling me with stories of how his chaps put bombs in prisoners pockets & then shoved them into shell-holes full of water. But of course these things aren't atrocities when we do them. Nevertheless they are an indictment of war - some People can't help being like that when they are out there.'
Sassoon had intended to include 'Atrocities' in Counter-Attack, but was persuaded to omit it along with 'The Dressing Station' as too fierce. Nor was it printed in Collected Poems, 1971. It was first published in War Poems, 1919. It is written in Sassoon's early handwriting contemporaneous with the date of composition.
THE TEXT IN THIS MANUSCRIPT DIFFERS GREATLY FROM THE PRINTED VERSION (12 lines in three stanzas) where it begins: 'You told me, in your drunken-boasting mood, / How once you butchered prisoners. That was good!...' The second stanza herein begins 'How did you kill them? Speak, and don't be shy...' ('How did you do them in? Come, don't be shy' in the printed version). THE LAST TWO STANZAS IN THIS MANUSCRIPT DO NOT APPEAR IN THE PRINTED VERSION IN ANY FORM AND ARE UNPUBLISHED.
Sassoon's papers are largely at Cambridge University Library, Austin, Texas, Tulsa, British Library and the Lilly Library. Also see lot 527.
PROVENANCE: Kenneth Rendell.
REFERENCES: Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Siegfried Sassoon, The Making of the War Poet, A Biography, 1886-1918, 1998; Location Register of Twentieth-Century Literary Manuscripts and Letters, 2 volumes, 1988.