2 OverviewThe Rear-Guard was written in 1917 while Sassoon was convalescing. It would have been about the same time he met Wilfred Owen.
3 OverviewLonger and a little more difficult than the previous two poems, The Rear-Guard is a fictional account of a soldier’s experience in the ‘rear-guard’ (any soldier – the impersonal pronoun ‘he’ is used). Rear-guard troops are traditionally responsible for protecting the vulnerable positions behind the front-line.
4 OverviewThrough the soldier’s experience, the true horror of war is witnessed. In this respect it is not dissimilar to Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est. It is a poem keen to give the reader a sense of the reality – the almost clumsy changes in meter and rhyme, various uses of alliteration, assonance and sibilance create brief but dissonant bursts like gunfire. It is a very different poem to the simple anti-establishmentarianism of They or The Hero.
5 OverviewIt is a busy and confused poem – lots seems to happen. As with many of Sassoon’s poems, speech is used – how does speech differ here compared with They or The Hero?
6 Subject & Theme Form and Structure Make a list under each heading. What is the poem’s form and structure?
7 LanguageIn pairs, pick three key quotes. Explain very carefully why you have chosen them.
8 ContextPick out at least one thing that satisfies AO4 – contextual detail.