Attack

Attack Poem Summary Theme By Siegfried Sassoon

It was Siegfried Sassoon, the war poet and Ist World War soldier who wrote Attack which is a descriptive and eye-opening poem about the bitter truth of war as well as what it feels like to be a soldier. It was first published in Sassoon’s collection Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918).

  • This poem is a description of the moment when soldiers follow the order to attack and go over the trenches as well as into the line of enemy fire
  • Most of the time, its result is a catastrophic loss of so many lives with marginal gain in territory
  • That is why the poet, in the last line of this poem urges Jesus to “make it stop”.
At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun 
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun, 
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud 
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one, 
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire. 
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed 
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear, 
Men jostle and climb to, meet the bristling fire. 
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear, 
They leave their trenches, going over the top, 
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists, 
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists, 
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

Attack  Summary

According to the speaker of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Attack, it is the time of the morning. The top of the trenches appears earthy as well as grey-brown under the strange purple sunshine. As far as the aforementioned sunshine is concerned; it burns through the smoke which covers a frightening as well as misshapen hill.

Now, the speaker comes towards the main point and says that tanks appear, One after the other, tentatively as well as awkwardly moving towards the barbed wire. 

The speaker of the poem Attack talks about the artillery guns firing with noise. Next, he finds/sees soldiers who are bent under the weight of all those weapons as well as the equipment they are carrying. These men (soldiers) start pushing as well as climbing towards the battle;(most) probably to be hit in a flail of bullets.

The speaker of the poem Attack by Siegfried Sassoon sees the rows of soldiers with pale faces, mumbling as well as frightened. They climb over the top; in this way, they leave the trenches.

Time ticks away busily as well as unknowingly on the wristwatches of the soldiers. Finally, the speaker of this war poem talks about the hope which struggles in the mud with darting eyes as well as flailing fists. He requests Jesus Christ to ” make it stop”. 

The Poem Attack by Siegfried Sassoon Themes

Though Siegfried Sassoon introduces several themes through his poem Attack, ‘Savagery or Hostility of War’ is the most significant theme of it.

He, in this poem, focuses on and deals with the struggle of the soldiers in difficult or crucial situations. But, their struggle does not guarantee an optimistic or positive outcome.

‘Futility of War’ is also not the ignorable theme of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Attack that is found in these lines:

“And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,

  Flounders in mud. O Jesus makes it top.”

In addition, ‘Machine vs Man’ is the next theme of the poem. Machines have no sensation. They are heard as roaring as if the battlefield is rather a feast (particularly) arranged with war weaponry. But, if a compares, he finds that the soldiers suffer. It seems that their lives do not matter at all. 

Apart from the above, Sassoon also incorporates some more themes in the poem Attack; they are:

  • Death
  • Darkness
  • Inhumanity
  • Ruthlessness

Siegfried Sassoon’s Poem Attack Form and Structure

Sassoon’s poem Attack is a short poem. It is made of just thirteen lines. In this way, it is one line short of a sonnet. Moreover, the readers of the poem wonder whether it was intentional, as though amid the carnage of the Ist World War, Sassoon could not make this poem slot neatly or smartly into the form of a conventional sonnet. Moreover, he uses an unusual/uncommon rhyme scheme.

The poem has AABCDEFGFHIIH as the rhyme scheme. Furthermore, it is equipped with a rhyme scheme as well, the addition of which makes it even more strong as well as powerful. One more thing, most of the lines include ten or eleven beats, mostly ibambic in rhythm. As far as the structure is concerned; it is flexible.

Ques: What is the message of the poem Attack by Siegfried Sassoon?

Ans: Siegfried Sassoon through his poem Attack tries to tell people about the horror, suffering, as well as sheer senselessness. After that, he makes a simple as well as a dramatic plea for making “it stop”. The poet himself was a soldier in the Ist World War. That is why his poem shows the devastating effects of such conflicts on those young people who were indulged in the war.

Ques: What literary devices does Siegfried Sassoon use in Attack ?

Ans: Allitération, Assonance, Caesura, Onomatopoeia, Polysyndeton, and Repetition are those devices that Sassoon uses in the poem Attack.

Ques: How does the poem Attack start ?

Ans:  Sassoon’s poem Attack starts in this way:
“At dawn the ridge emerges massed and gun
 In the wild purple of the glow’ ring sun”

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