Poem Of The Week: ‘Everyone Sang’ By Siegfried Sassoon
If you were to measure our Poem of the Week by the semantically-futile yardstick of ‘Britain’s Most Popular Poems’, then you would almost certainly find Siegfried Sassoon’s homage to unalloyed, joyful relief in the Top Ten. A regular choice of Poetry Please listeners, ‘Everyone Sang’ is as oft quoted as many of Wordsworth. But over-exposure need not demean its self-evident power: the poem speaks in a unitary voice and will continue to captivate the receptive ear because its theme and tone will always remain relevant.
Everyone suddenly burst out singing:
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields: on- on- and out of sight.
Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun;
My heart was shaken with tears: and horror
Drifted away. . .O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
Published exactly a century ago in the wake of the then most destructive war in human history – industrial-scale mechanisation and human flesh in an ironic embrace – the poem’s sense of utter relief is palpable, and infectious. A simple celebration of being in the moment, ‘Everyone Sang’ acts as a vicarious inducement to join in. And we do. The languid, alliterative lines slow the poem’s pace to savouring distance, and to some extent betray the urgency of the corollary emotional impact. For this, above all else, is a deeply moving poem, tapping into a sense of psychological liberation, a moment of serene release, with which we all may identify.
For this moment, we share the narrator’s joyous contagion, the more ‘wildly’ abandoned because fleeting. For Sassoon’s generation, the incarceration of economic depression and betrayal would soon return, in a land fit for heroes.