Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon

This is a well-known poem by Siegfried Sassoon, written shortly after the signing of the Armistice in 1918.

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.

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.

Siegfried Sassoon

Here is a video of some secondary school children performing the poem.

There is a suggested lesson plan on this poem on the Poetry Archive. You can listen to Sassoon reading his own poem here.

Suggested activities

Begin with a picture of celebrations of World War One ending, then lead into the poem itself. Or begin with the words (this is what I did). Work towards a class performance. Do not discuss the meaning yet. Get children very familiar with the text itself. Give pairs one line of the poem and get them to learn it and rehearse it together. This should lead to a full class performance without having to refer to the text.

Whisper lines. Shout lines. Exaggerate lines. Respect lines. Say lines fast. Say lines slow. Say lines on your own. Say lines as a group. Say lines as a whole class.

Then think about these questions:
What were they celebrating?
Pick out words from the text which suggest a mood of joy and hope.
Why should they suddenly sing?
What is the setting for the poem? Which year is it? What has just happened?
Why is song important at a time like this?

Work towards a class performance which could be filmed. Ask a group to research pictures on the internet which could be used as a backdrop for the performance. Or record audio to accompany a Powerpoint or Moviemaker version of the poem.



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