Siegfried Sassoon’s “The General”, like most of the poems by the World War I British war poets is a condemnation of the horrors of war, emphasizing the gritty realities of trench warfare and hand-to-hand combat. Technically, it follows Rudyard Kipling in using anapaests, a meter often used for limericks, light opera (Gilbert and Sullivan) and other light verse to give both a jaunty and martial tone that contrasts with the subject matter, as the cheeriness of the General greeting the troops contrasts with the death of many of the regiment and the slogging work of foot soldiers.
The basic meter is anapaestic tetrameter. The rhyme is ABABCCC. The first six-line stanza could be considered an example of the “Venus and Adonis stanza”, named after Shakespeare’s poem.