Study Guide

Does it Matter? Warfare

By Siegfried Sassoon

Warfare

Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind, (1-2)

Now there's some strange and ridiculous logic. It doesn't matter if you lose your legs because people will be nice to you? Yeah, that's not gonna fly. Frankly, it seems like the speaker is suggesting that it is precisely this faulty reasoning that causes wars to happen in the first place. Check out the rhyme on "legs" and "eggs" from line 5, for example, which makes them seem like they're just the eggs you chow down on for breakfast.

And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs. (3-5)

Everybody is eating and hunting except the soldier; he can't hunt because of his legs, but why can't he eat? We're thinking that what the speaker's after here is that post-war life makes even normal things like eating difficult. This isn't meant to be taken literally, but metaphorically. Everything changes after you lose your legs, after you've survived a battlefield.

And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light. (8-10)

Again, the speaker acts like the kindness of other people can somehow compensate for the losses that war brings about. And that slant rhyme on "light" and "kind" points to the chaos and dissonance of war, as well as the problems of acting like society's kindness can somehow make everything all better. We might want a neat rhyme here, but what we get is one that doesn't quite work.

For they'll know you've fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit. (14-15)

The people know the soldier has fought for his country, but what about the soldier? Does he know that? The question's left unanswered. And what's with the whole not worrying thing? If fighting for one's country makes the soldier the way he is (blind, legless, forever changed), that seems like a pretty big cause for worry. Something just isn't right with the way people think about war in this poem.

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