“Everyone Sang”, a poem by the English war poet Siegfried Sassoon, is about a doomed speaker’s imagination concerning the end of a war. He visualizes everyone’s joyous expression that makes his soul as free as a bird. However, in the end, he realizes that such joy is nothing but an illusion. He is just imagining a utopian scene of everyone signing together. Through this poem, Sassoon reflects his cynicism regarding the end of the World Wars. According to him, there is no ray of hope as the people (especially soldiers) around him are nonexistent. The horrific wars have taken them away from this beautiful world, leaving him with nothing but despair and dejection.
- Read the full text of “Everyone Sang” here in the analysis section.
Sassoon’s poem “Everyone Sang” begins with a reference to everyone bursting out in singing. It filled the poetic persona with intense delight to see their reaction at the end of the horrid World Wars. He compares himself to a bird that once was prisoned. The conclusion of the war set his soul free. It was winging across the orchards and fields and it flew out of sight.
In the next stanza, he describes how everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted. Their song was as beautiful as the sunset. It touched the poet’s heart and made him emotional. However, in the end, he realized that this song was nothing but a realistic recreation of his mind. The people he saw had died in the war. Thus, the “singing” will never be done.
The title “Everyone Sang” is a direct reference to the theme of the poem. Sassoon uses past tense in order to portray how people could sing freely before the onset of the World War. However, this poem details an imaginary scene of everyone singing together at the end of the war. This “song” representing people’s joy and emotions is nothing but a creation of his mind. The soldiers who joined the war died. Some of them lost the ability to sing after seeing its terrifying aftermath. For this reason, Sassoon remarks that everyone who died at war turned into a bird. Their song was wordless. Hence, the “song” of humanity cannot ever be sung.
Structure & Form
“Everyone Sang” consists of two stanzas. It is told from the perspective of a first-person speaker. So, this poem is a lyric. Each stanza has five internally rhyming lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABCBB. It means the second, fourth, and fifth lines end with a similar rhyme. While the rest of the lines do not rhyme at all. This scheme is also followed in the second stanza. For example, in this stanza, the words “sun”, “Everyone”, and “done” rhyme together. This poem is written using both the iambic meter and the trochaic meter. There is a specific metrical scheme. Each line contains an amalgamation of iambic and trochaic feet. The last line of both the stanzas contains the most syllables reflecting the sad mood of the poet.
Poetic Devices & Figures of Speech
In this poem, Sassoon uses the following poetic devices that make his thoughts more appealing to readers.
- Simile: It occurs in “As prisoned birds must find in freedom” and “And beauty came like the setting sun”. In the first example, the poet compares himself to a freed bird. The next line contains a comparison between the song and the setting sun.
- Metaphor: In “Everyone/ Was a bird” and “the song was wordless”, Sassoon uses metaphors. In the first line, the poet compares everyone who died in the war to birds. In the next line, the unsung song of the dead souls is referred to as a “wordless” composition.
- Enjambment: It is used throughout the poem. Sassoon uses this device to create tension in the transition between the lines. For example, the line “And I was filled with such delight” makes one quickly read the next line “As prisoned birds must find in freedom” to understand the poet’s idea.
- Alliteration: It occurs in “find in freedom”, “Winging wildly”, “setting sun”, and “was wordless”. The alliteration of a similar sound within a line creates an internal rhyming.
- Irony: Sassoon ironically comments on the aftermath of the war in “O, but Everyone/ Was a bird; and the song was wordless …”
- Anticipation: The last line of the first stanza contains anticipation regarding the fate of those who were singing the song. The phrase “out of sight” implicitly hints at their death.
The poem “Everyone Sang” taps on the themes of the futility of war, death, loss of joy and beauty, and hopelessness. This piece details the poet’s reaction to a song that was sung by those around him. At the conclusion of the war, this dong filled the poet’s heart with unspeakable joy and freed his soul like a bird. As the poetic person came across the reality of the war, he understood that such a song was nonexistent, an illusion. The soldiers and all those affected by the war were no more or they lost the ability to sing after seeing its horrendous impact. In this way, the poet showcases the themes of the futility of war and loss of joy and beauty. He explores the theme of hopelessness in the last few lines of the poem.
Stanza-by-Stanza Analysis & Explanation
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.
The poem “Everyone Sang” begins with a hyperbolic statement. In the first line, the expression of bursting out in singing refers to people’s joy after the end of the war. They could not control their suppressed emotions any longer. In order to express their feeling of satisfaction, they sang together, relieving their hearts from tension. The hyperbolic term “burst out” reflects this sense of joy.
In the following line, Sassoon details how the song made his poetic persona delighted. This delight cannot be expressed through words. For a speaker who once fought on the battlefield, watched the brutal scenes, and suffered mentally, this song gave him a sense of freedom from the cruel clutches of war.
He describes his captivity by the phrase “prisoned birds”. The poet compares his speaker to a bird that was caged, denying it of his wild freedom. However, the speaker realized the sweetness of freedom after the war was over.
His soul, like a freed bird, winged wildly enjoying its long-lost freedom. It hovered over the “white” orchards “dark-green fields” and kept on flying. Suddenly, it was out of sight. In this line, the term “white” acts as a symbol of death. The color “dark-green”, a symbol of life, is in contrast with the color of death. Alongside that, the phrase “out of sight” hints at the sense of loss in the speaker’s mind.
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.
The second stanza begins with a reference to the sudden lift in everyone’s voice. As they sang together, it made them so mesmerized that they sang louder than before. The song had a dual impact on the speaker’s mind. Firstly, his mind became peaceful after listening to such a heartful song after a long time. He compares the song’s beauty to the mellow tone of the “setting sun”. Here, the “setting sun” is also used as a symbol of death and hopelessness.
The speaker was in tears after listening to the song. It made the speaker nostalgic and sad. Sassoon quickly shifts from the beautiful aspect of the song. He depicts the gloomy and horrific side of the events that occurred before. According to him, the “horror” of the war drifted away like the sea waves. But, the havoc it caused to humankind was permanent.
Those who were singing the song were turned into birds. It means they had already died. The song ringing in the speaker’s ear is nothing but a chimera, a utopian recreation of the mind. Hence, the “song” is inaudible, wordless, and nonexistent.
Through the term “song”, Sassoon metaphorically hints at humanity. The World Wars destroyed the essence of humanity. Therefore, the “song” will never be sung as the people who would sing had either died or lost their trust in compassion, brotherhood, and most importantly humanity.
“Everyone Sang” as a War Poem
Siegfried Sassoon’s “Everyone Sang” is written as a reactionary poem on the aftermath of the World Wars. This poem highlights the themes of the futility of war, its aftermath, and the loss of humanity. The metaphorical “song” stands for humanity. Through this poem, Sassoon hints at the fact that though the war was over, it made people lose faith in humanity. For this reason, the song will never be sung.
Sassoon’s reaction to the war is recorded in the lines “My heart was shaken with tears; and horror/ Drifted away …” His heart was relieved after it was over. By referring to it as a “horror” event in human history, the poet makes his stance clear to readers. In this way, this poem can be appreciated as an anti-war poem, highlighting the irreversible effect of war on humankind.
“Everyone Sang” was written by the best-known British war poet Siegfried Sassoon. His poems tap on the themes of the horrors of war and jingoism. However, in 1914, he joined the army motivated by patriotism. After serving the nation for three years, he soon realized the futility of the war and its meaninglessness. Later, he came in touch with Wilfred Owen. He inspired Owen to write poetry. Sassoon wrote this poem around 1918 after the First World War was over. In this poem, he records the impact of war on his mind and how it constricted humanity at its very core.
Questions & Answers
The poem “Everyone Sang” details the people’s reactions after the First World War was over. According to Sassoon, they burst out in happiness and singing song. It led his soul to set free like a wild bird. However, in the end, he ironically says that such a song will never be sung as most of them had either died in war or lost trust in humanity after seeing the horrid scenes of the war.
In this poem, Sassoon describes the Armistice of 11 November 1918. He records the event with mixed feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration.
The overall idea of the poem concerns the futility of the war and how it sacked the essence of humanity from people’s hearts. This piece centers on a metaphorical song sung on the Armistice.
The poem was written around 1918 after the end of the First World War. It was published in 1919.
In the first stanza, the poet compares his poetic self to a “prisoned bird”. He uses a simile in order to compare his delight to that of the bird after it got freedom.
The first line of the poem refers to people’s joy after the end of the war. Here, the poet describes the uncontrollable delight in people’s hearts. They expressed this sense of joy by singing together.
The line “Winging wildly across the white” refers to the wild flight of the “prisoned bird” after it was freed from its cage. Here, the bird is a symbol of freedom. It also represents the poetic persona.
Through this line, the poet hints at the agony of captivity and the pleasures of freedom. To contrast these ideas, he uses the images of a caged bird and its wild flight. After the war was over, the poet felt like a bird enjoying its uncaged freedom.
This line is an example of a simile. The phrase “prisoned birds” contains a personal metaphor. Here, Sassoon compares a caged bird to the prisoners of war.
- The Poem Aloud — Listen to Sir John Gielgud reading the poem.
- Armistice of 11 November 1918 — Read about how the armistice ended the First World War.
- About Siegfried Sassoon — Learn about the poet’s life and his works.
- Poet Profile & Poems of Siegfried Sassoon — Explore more about the poet and read his best-known poems.
- The Poem on a Wall — Look at the image of the poem written on a wall in The Hague.
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