Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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Dream Voices

I took yesterday off and went to Cambridge to see my besty buddy from way back in prehistoricschool times, so that we could look round Dream Voices: Siegfried Sassoon, Memory and War together.

This is an exhibition based around books and letters newly added to the University Library's Sassoon archive.

It's fascinating to see his workings in proof copies of his books and handwritten drafts, all with changes and corrections, and just as fascinating to glimpse his other lives as private citizen and diligent officer.

Siegfried's career in poetry started very early on, to his siblings' derision. Collected works were illustrated and presented to his mother as birthday gifts.

Prewar notebooks record cricket scores, victories on horseback, and the ins and outs of his book-collecting hobby (looking at the last, my eye of course leapt to the word 'Dryden').

Then he's in the trenches, scribbling poems amongst his records of operations.

He writes reassuringly to his mother about gas-masks, but laments the horrible death of another young officer, David Thomas, to his friend Edward Dent, addressed as 'Dear Ginger-pot':
'And now the light has gone from his yellow hair, & we shall never be in 'Paradise' again, for it was he of whom I told you - the Cambridge boy'

There's a letter in verse from Robert Graves, detailing all the places they'll visit together when the war is over. Soon after receiving it, Sassoon was told that his friend had died of wounds, but this turned out not to be the case.

One of the last exhibits was a letter from 1967, the year of Sassoon's death, written in biro by one of his old comrades:
'I am very pleased to hear your Book Memoirs of an Infantry Officer is a set book for the G.C.E. exams this year...I wonder if they will really know What kind of officer you were always thinking about your men our food & feet...'

1967 seems a world away from the small boy who wrote 'Hunting':
'Over fields and brooks, and hedges
While the birds, their young, fledges.
All the bushes are forgotten.
And the trees that are gone rotten.'

Definite potential there, I'd say.

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