‘Everyone Sang‘ is filled with wonderful examples of imagery. These can be seen through the poet’s use of similes and metaphors. The primary one is the poet’s comparison of “everyone” to birds. One of the most powerful images is that of a dark green field filled with white flowers. This can be interpreted as an image of remembrance for those who are lost and used as an image of hope.
Explore Everyone Sang
‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sassoon is a simple poem that uses imagery to speak about the end of World War I.
In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker begins by stating that everyone suddenly “burst out singing.” This was an unplanned burst of joy at the end of World War I. Everyone was filled with unimaginable delight, knowing that the horrors of the period were over. The speaker goes on to say that the beauty of everyone’s singing voices, lifted from the darkness of war, was “like the setting sun.” The speaker, too, was shaking with tears knowing that the pain had drifted away. The poem concludes with the speaker stating that the “singing will never be done.”
Structure and Form
‘Everyone Sang’ by Siegfried Sassoon is a two-stanza poem that is made up of sets of five lines. These are known as quintains. The stanzas follow the rhyme scheme of ABCBB, changing sounds in the second set of lines. The poet chose not to use a specific rhyme scheme when writing these two stanzas. Although some of the lines are similar in length, in general, they vary.
Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza.
- Caesura: can be seen when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. This can be accomplished through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in a line. For example: “Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.”
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. These should trigger the reader’s senses. For example, “My heart was shaken with tears; and horror”
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “suddenly” and “singing” in line one. Line four of the first stanza is another good example.
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.
In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker begins by acknowledging that suddenly “everyone” started to sing. The singing came upon this group of people as if it was a surprise. This is seen by the poet’s use of the word “burst.” It was not mournful singing either, the speaker says, it was in fact, “filled with such delight.”
Between the second and third lines of the first stanza, the poet makes use of a simile. This is seen through a comparison using the word “as.” The speaker says that everyone was filled with a delight that is comparable to what “prisoned birds must find in freedom.” He’s comparing their joy to the heart of a creature in prison for all its life, for reasons unknown, and it then being let loose.
Readers who are familiar with Sassoon’s work and the time period during which he was writing will have no trouble connecting this poem to the end of World War I. The joy that the people express in the first and second stanzas is about the end of the War and the dissipation of the “horror” they had lived with for so long.
The image of “dark green fields” is a wonderful contrast against the fields of trenches that are often depicted in other poems written about World War I. Now, rather than being filled with the horrors of war, they are filled with “white / Orchards” and the metaphorical birds singing about their freedom.
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.
There is an interesting example of juxtaposition at the beginning of the second stanza as the poet compares the lifted sound of everyone’s voice to the “setting sun.” The voices are going up as the sun is going down. But, the speaker connects them through their beauty. The speaker, like the people singing, is having trouble putting into words exactly how he feels. He is using similes and imagery to suggest what he’s feeling, but it is hard to grasp.
He notes directly that his heart was “shaken with tears.” The horror that he felt before “drifted away.” This is a beautiful image that is emphasized through the use of an ellipse in the middle of the fourth line of the second stanza. He makes visual the disappearance of past fear he felt, and that everyone felt.
The poem concludes with the bird imagery returning. Here, the speaker says that “everyone / was a bird.” The people sang in a way that they could understand but that was “wordless.” It was an unspoken joy that is going to last throughout time. This connects to the poet’s use of the line “the singing will never be done.”
Readers will likely immediately connect the image of a singing bird to the repetitive rhyme throughout this poem. It was certainly the poet’s intent to make these two stanzas sound song-like.
The theme of this poem is relief. This relief comes at the end of World War I, and the worldwide joy experienced knowing that the war is over. The poet uses several examples of imagery in this piece to convey the theme. But, readers also have to understand his broader allusion to the conflict.
The speaker is likely the poet himself. But, understanding the speaker’s identity is not important for understanding the poem as a whole. This piece is written as a universal declaration of relief after World War I. It could be experienced by or written by anyone who lived through the war.
The purpose is to celebrate the end of World War I and acknowledge the overwhelming joy that the people of the world experienced knowing that it was done. After unimaginable losses and years of fear, the war is finally over, and the people of the world can fly freely like a newly freed bird across a dark green field.
The tone is one of joy and relief. This can be seen through the lines in which the speaker discusses other people’s feelings and their own. In the second stanza, the poet uses a first-person pronoun: “my.” This is the only time they acknowledge their own experience and it is quite brief. They say that their heart was “shaken with tears.” These are tears of joy, not of sorrow.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Siegfried Sassoon poems. For example:
- ‘Dreamers‘ – speaks on the inner lives of soldiers fighting in the trenches of World War I.
- ‘To Any Dead Officer‘ – attempts to give the the soldiers of WWI a semblance of life; rather than focusing specifically on their death.
- ‘The Death Bed‘ – tells of the suffering and eventual peaceful death of a soldier mortally wounded in World War I.