Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.

--Siegfried Sassoon, March 1919

Between the toil of rebuilding and the relief of it simply being over, memories and wounds of the war were fresh. Four months after Armistice Day the poet put these visuals of the Somme to paper, and with them thoughts for his generation as the snow thawed for the third time over the graves of those fallen at Mametz.

Even with gaping wounds all over the landscape being uncovered by the spring thaw, after a calamity there's a rush to return to normalcy as much and as soon as possible. Pretend it didn't happen. You can make it go away by telling yourself that it never happened, that you were not there. Which, as any living veteran will tell you, does not work very well. But you have to do something to cope and denial, let's face it, is a practical option.

But how much can you deny? How much of it can you forget and who will remember if you won't? What will happen if it's forgotten by too many? What's the answer to 'is it all going to happen again?' It took but twenty years for the answer to be revealed.

This poem is an admonishment for the living to preserve not the memory of the individuals who perished but a personal image of the horror. Most of them needed no reminding. Many of them forgot nonetheless. The lesson is handed down to us, to those who haven't seen war as more than an historical abstraction, in these days in which televised warfare produced with sterilised imagery from media laboratories has turned war into palatable dinner-time viewing. War isn't clean and clinical. It's just ugly.

I don't know if we know how to learn from it. We have so little to forget. We have no piles of dead, no trains of wounded, and those who saw them and lived to tell are dying. When spring comes we shall find no trenches filled with limbs and corpses. May we never have to.

Sassoon took part in the carnage that was the taking of Mametz and the nearby woods early in July, 1916. The allied cemetery there holds the graves of 2053 soldiers, all killed fighting for the same tiny patch of land.

The poem is in the public domain and was published in Picture-Show in 1920.
The commentary and parts thereof may be freely used provided this page is cited

It's in the hospital that it all becomes clear
static for the pain.

Aft"er*math (#), n. [After + math. See Math.]

A second moving; the grass which grows after the first crop of hay in the same season; rowen.



© Webster 1913.

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