Charles Hamilton Sorley: ‘When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead’

512px-Charles_Hamilton_Sorley_(For_Remembrance)_cropped_and_retouched

Cropped and retouched version of a portrait of British soldier poet Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915). Photo dated to 1914 or 1915 as subject is in uniform and enlisted in 1914 and was killed in 1915. Via Wiki Commons (public domain).

***

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.

 

 

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