Thursday, 25 April 2013

They are Dead by Charles Hamilton Sorley


One of my very favourite poems is The Song of the Ungirt Runners by Charles Hamilton Sorley and you can quickly find it via the blog searchbox.

As a counterweight to this delightful and spirited poem I publish here another poem by the same poet.

This one is,  most sadly, yet another war poem and it is brutally honest. So that I can find it again I have endowed it with the title: They are Dead;  one of the key phrases in the poem.

I experimented with another key phrase: It is a Spook. There was really nothing to choose between them.

I suppose I could, like some anthologists, have used When you see millions of the mouthless dead, the poem's first line, or left it as Untitled. In the event Mr Sorley, who was killed by the sniper's bullet, will not be troubled by my decision.

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, 'They are dead.' Then add thereto,
'Yet many a better one has died before.'
Then scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

Charles Hamilton Sorley
1895 - 1915

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