I recorded these to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 2016, but never got round to posting a proper post about them. Since today is Armistice Day I thought I’d send them out into the world in the spirit of remembering how awful war is and how we all need to do everything we can to avoid repeating these horrors. More important for Europe this year than at any time in the last 70, I think.
So here are two Sonnets by Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley (19 May 1895 – 13 October 1915)
WHEN YOU SEE MILLIONS OF THE MOUTHLESS DEAD
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.
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.
When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm,
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.