In the poem “Memorial Tablet,” written by Siegfried Sassoon firstly questions in the perspective of the poet is telling it from, like he’s looking over himself, like he’s died in “glorious memory.” The poem looks upon the life of himself as a soldier, and hence maybe the stereotypical soldier, who has been bullied into applying. Siegfried describes he had “died in hell,” his time in the trenches first having a slight wound, and then effectively loosing his sight. He then after war is questioning was a few words of thankfulness worth the way he “suffered anguish,” mentally and physically during the war, and post war.

“Memorial Tablet,” is a very deep meaningful poem, relating that the war is not even glorious or relaxing when you are home safe, asking himself was it worth giving into that peer pressure. I would recommend this poem, and its refers to historical concepts, which gives a greater insight on what Siegfried’s message was, and maybe is signifying this in a way that every soldier can relate to this, Siegfried highlights the life of a stereotypical world war one soldier: Bullied into applying, agonising external and internal pain, and mentally suffering post war. In each way I can relate easily through some aspects personally and I can relate through the wider world through other aspects.

Throughout the world today the majority have the comfort of there own home, I know personally my whole life my home has always felt safe. Safe is a feeling of not worrying about anything, or constantly thinking about a horrifying thing, the word safe is what these soldiers were starved from physiologically when returned home, in the form of post traumatic stress. This caused by him suffering “anguish that he’s never guessed.” Most of the world who have no experience these horrific conditions, may not know this feeling. Another reason his “wound was slight, and I was hobbling back.” showing he has negative feeling towards war hence why he has had this mental impact post war. Hobbling is seen to be almost a disability as it brings up the image of pain and old, hence he was so physically strained acting as an old person. Which is ironic as war had certain age limits on who could, only the conditions to put all these soldiers being incapable, which may have crossed Mr Sassoon’s mind. I can think of maybe personally hearing about a break in to someones house, and when you go to bed you have that slight fair. Putting that into perspective you are constantly thinking of this unsafe, nightmare 24 hours a day seven times a week. Which gives me curiosity if of what I would do if I was put in that situation of dying “in hell.” “Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,” shows that before the war, the poet was young and noble before he set of to war. That trait begging taken from him, or calling himself an idiot for falling for it and not given into the peer pressure of going. Constantly throughout the world people go through or will have a traumatic experience out of there comfort zone which once they “came home, and then went west,” either for a short or long period of time. This shows that the world has its downfalls, which can mentally scar someone causing them to mentally breakdown or go “west.” If these people encounter the downfalls they find distressing can effect them, this is an environmental aspect thrown against you blindly. Personally I have not experienced such horrific change mentally but I have seen it in others life for example my great grandma a year ago she seemed perfect, and then a year later severely different with no energy which was the complete opposite of what I was used to, and had large impact on me mentally, her mentally and everyone around her mentally for a period of time, which became quite a shock. One persons mentally or physically hurting has a chain effect and spreads through communities, countries and the world. Experiencing one person like this was a long enough chain, let alone I can imagine after the war. Going west is a use of slang which may have been used during these times to shorten how they feel. I personally feel like this changed the way I look at life and not take things for granted, and cherish every moment because it might all change. Which was exactly in Siegfried’s case. Mr Sassoon personality seems to be very knowledgeable of how he feels hence he might have had a previous experience that made him go “west,” as he has that feeling in the back of his brain. When this term comes back he knows exactly how it feels.

Secondly “Memorial Tablet,” gives an overview of during the time most people stereotypically eventually give in to this peer pressure. Nowadays this is even more common. People can be easily influenced, “bullied or nagged,” doing things they know they wouldn’t do by themselves. “Into the bottomless mud and lost the light,” physically showing he could not see anymore, but also the word light brings up the image of a spark, he has realised he’s lost that feeling that the war is great, which was scripted into his brain from propaganda, this impacting his life. Doing these things gives you an instant feeling of regret asking yourself why did you actually do that. Humans are easily manipulated. The manipulative people are the ones who tell people they didn’t peer pressure someone, only blaming it on the individual. They do this in a way to please themselves only to dump that feeling on someone else which is portrayed through the world today and the time of the war, only different situations. Historically propaganda was to furthermore hinder the minds of soldiers, which I can see why Siegfried said in a joking tone “what greater glory could a man desire.” An example of propaganda was that leaders of the country eliminated the facts about the deaths and only put in the beneficial information to make an allusion that war is great to sign up for and it is all glory. This text connects with the rest of the world politically, placing these laws in which are very manipulative and of impact a large amount of people lives. “Into the bottomless mud and lost the light,” physically showing he could not see anymore, but also the word light brings up the image of a spark, maybe saying he has realised he has lost that feeling that the war is great, which was scripted into his brain from propaganda, this impacting his life. For example historically the Treaty of Waitangi. Due to these laws put in place under 200 years ago the people of Maori culture have stereotypically been brought up in not as great conditions. The English to Maori translator change some of the words up to benefit the English behind the Maori’s backs. Which gives myself and a lot of others shame in a New Zealand history, which is something we should reflect and be proud of. Since reading this poem I have personally not thought about the manipulation in order for someone to do something in that way, which makes me sad. People did this with the “Lord derby scheme,” an historical reference, as soon as a soldier said they would do it after being nagged countlessly, there was no backing out. This reference impacted the text more, and gave a more of feeling of the time especially for a reader who has not experienced war and know of the lies used to get these innocent men to war. The lord derby scheme was propaganda saying the people that “wish,” to sign up will be held for trial in the next few days to come, which was completely manipulative showing to people that it was your freedom of choice if you want to go or not.  People have the capability of putting there own problems on someone else without even realising or feel bad for what they did. In life there is always a chance to back out, for example if you are uncomfortable about the situation. Siegfried revelaing a plead for human rights.  I have been convinced and talked to for continuous days on end about playing rugby, which I did not think and in my heart thought I wanted to do. Impacting my life for a few weeks, loosing sleep on the decision even, being so stressed about it being put of on other things I could be doing. Mentally you are drained of the overthinking, almost like every sentence I said would remind me of the situation. Pressure should not be put on humans and I believe this is exactly what Siegfried went through. If you make this decision and say yes you, regret or joy comes out, which I believe happened oppositely contrasting between myself and Siegfried.

This story line of a soldier is also portrayed in most war poetry, and brings up similar ideas of the conditions, the impact on themselves and their family and friends, and the manipulation to get the “innocent,” men to come. For example in the poem “Dulce et decorum est,” which holds all these ideas in similar ways. 



Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Jesse, you have given some strong personal reflections here. Two areas to consider:
    1) Giving some factual information about recruitment in World War One to support your claims about being “bullied” into war.
    2) Additional quotations from the poem to support your ideas would be extremely valuable.


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