Does it Matter? Summary
The poem is a series of rhetorical questions posed to a soldier that, apparently, has lost his legs, his sight, and his dreams (or you could read it as three different soldiers who suffer these afflictions). We learn that he can no longer do they things he used to be able to do (like hunt), and that nobody around him really seems to care (people come in and eat and pay not attention; others realize he is a soldier and don't "worry a bit").
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.
Does it matter?—losing your sight?
There's such splendid work for the blind;
- The speaker repeats the first words of the poem ("does it matter?"), only this time he asks if losing one's sight matters. Looks like we've got a refrain on our hands, Shmoopers. Stay sharp.
- He again gives a semi-sarcastic response, saying that "there's such splendid work for the blind," so you know, it's NBD if you lose your sight because you can just get a job that doesn't require, um, seeing. And it will be splendid. Yeah, because work is the only thing someone who has lost their vision worries about.
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
- The speaker again tells the soldier that "people will always be kind" while he sits on the "terrace" looking towards the "light" and reminiscing.
- What do you think the soldier might be "remembering"? The war? What he used to be able to see?
- Line 10 packs a major wallop. A blind person can of course turn to face the light—but he can't see it. He can only feel the warmth on his skin. The light will have gone out.
- So, just like in the first stanza, the soldier is missing out on something that other folks can share in—namely, a nice sunbath on the terrace.
- But it's cool, you know, because people are nice to him. So he shouldn't complain. (Or so says our speaker.
Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?
- The speaker shifts gears; he now asks if "they matter," the "dreams from the pit"? Hmmm. We're gonna go out on a limb here and say that yes, they do.
- Even though he's not talking about missing limbs anymore, the speaker still manages to evoke depression, sadness, and the like.
- "Pit" probably refers to the trenches in which soldiers lived and from which they launched their attacks during World War I.
- And the "dreams from the pit" probably refers to the young soldier's hopes and aspirations for after the war.
- It's a little tricky to read the tone of "do they matter" here. The speaker suggests, on the one hand, that the soldier's "dreams" have been destroyed as a result of the war, and thus no longer matter.
- The speaker also, however, assumes the same sarcastic tone he's maintained throughout; he acts as though the loss of those "dreams" is no big deal (just like the loss of sight and legs), for reasons he explains in the following lines.
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you're mad;
- According to our speaker, the destruction of the soldier's dreams is no big deal because he can "drink and forget and be glad."
- And if he gets wasted and forgets about the war and acts happy, nobody will claim that he's (the soldier) insane. Excellent?
- Yep—we were being sarcastic. And so is our speaker. It's as if he's saying, "who cares about your dreams boy? You can just get drunk and forget about them after the war, and everything will be hunky dory."
- Notice the rhyme on "glad" and "mad" here. Sassoon's doing some fancy footwork here, connecting those two words via sound. it forces you to consider what gladness has to do with madness. And in this case, it's everything.
- For the speaker to be glad, he'd have to be a little mad. After all, he's in a right sorry state, and we imagine he'd have a pretty hard time finding the sunny side of the street.
For they'll know you've fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.
- Bring it home, Siegfried.
- Here, the speaker assures the soldier that other people won't call the soldier cray-cray because they will understand that he's fought for his country; nobody will worry at all about him or his well-being.
- We have to say, these concluding lines are totally sarcastic; the speaker is acting like fighting for one's country is a good thing, and that people will respect it, but he's mocking the entire idea.
- According to the poem, after all, fighting for one's country destroys one's limbs, eyesight, and dreams, and someone really should be worrying about this guy.