Does it Matter?
by Siegfried Sassoon
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
- The poem opens with a question. The speaker asks if "losing your legs" matters.
- This is a strange way to begin a poem; it's not very poetic to talk about something so violent, is it?
- And also: duh. Losing your legs totally matters. We're guessing this is a rhetorical question, then.
- But who's doing the asking here? And whom are they posing this question to?
- At this point, we're not sure. But given that this is a Siegfried Sassoon poem, and given that he was a World War I poet, we're going to guess that whoever the speaker is here, he's asking a newly legless former soldier this question.
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
- After asking his rather painful question, the speaker elaborates on how losing your legs might not matter at all. Wait. That doesn't sound right. But don't worry—we'll get to that.
- The gist is, it doesn't matter if you lose your legs, because people will be nice to you no matter what. So the soldier doesn't have to act like he cares when other people come in from hunting to eat breakfast ("muffins and eggs").
- Now hold on, what's with all this talk about hunting and eggs? It sounds like the speaker is imagining a period after the war where the soldier is recuperating at home after he's lost his legs.
- There will probably be other people around the house—family members and what not—and they're going out hunting while he's cooped up in a wheelchair, the jerks.
- To be fair, Sassoon was from a small village in southeastern England called Manfield. In smaller towns like Manfield, going out hunting in the early morning would be a fairly normal activity.
- So this guy's stuck inside while his inconsiderate family is out having fun. But hey, it's okay, because people are kind most of the time.
- If this is sounding a bit off to you, well that's because our speaker has totally boarded the sarcasm train. After reading these lines, we're meant to think, "of course it matters. Being a shut in while your friends and fam have fun would totally bite, no matter how kind and caring they are."
- It sounds a lot like he's criticizing people who act like losing one's legs is no big deal, who act like not being able to hunt is the only consequence of losing important limbs.
- We imagine it's not the hunt this guy misses—but the sharing of an activity. We all know how awful it feels to be left out.
- Before we jump on down to the next stanza, check this out: we've got a bit of form going on here. First of all, there's clearly a rhyme scheme afoot. Legs rhymes with eggs and kind rhymes with mind, making the rhyme scheme of this stanza ABBCA.
- But why stop there? It's also worth noting that all of the lines, except 4, seem to be in anapestic trimeter. Wondering what that is? Shmoop's got you covered in our "Form and Meter" section.