Books & Review
Updated: Feb 03, 2013 06:09 AM EST

A draft of Siegfried Sassoon's "Atrocities" has been found with a letter to the poet's friend revealing the poet cut out and toned down few lines in the published version of the poem.

A manuscript of Siegfried Sassoon's "Atrocities" which talks about the brutal killing of German prisoners by British officers was discovered with a letter the author had written to his friend. The manuscript reveals the author deleted several lines and toned down many sentences that he had originally written as part of the poem. The unpublished letter to his friend explains why the author took such steps, revealing he was disheartened to see such a barbaric act performed by his own people.

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The original version of the poem contained sentences such as "you're great at murder" and "gulp their blood in ghoulish dreams."

In the letter accompanying the draft poem, Sassoon voices despair at "Canadians & Australians airing their exploits in the murder line", adding: "I know of very atrocious cases. Only the other day an officer of a Scotch regiment ... was regaling me with stories of how his chaps put bombs in prisoners' pockets & then shoved them into shell-holes full of water. But of course these things aren't atrocities when we do them. Nevertheless, they are an indictment of war - some people can't help being like that when they are out there."

Sassoon's biographer Jean Moorcroft Wilson says the discovery is very interesting and has given rise to the desire of wanting to rewrite her biography.

Commenting on the Atrocities draft, she said: "The publisher, Heinemann, wouldn't let him publish it. I now understand even more clearly [why]. Ogden was one of the few editors who dared to publish anti-war poems. The offices of his magazine were smashed by people who felt that he wasn't patriotic. Also there was censorship of a kind. The editor probably realised this wouldn't have been acceptable. Heinemann would have realised he had to be careful."

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