Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Remembrance Day 2

Lydia and I went to the wreath laying ceremony at Penpont, which is held just out the window. I wore my white poppy, Lydia her sticky red one. One of us carried a toy sheep but there was no symbolism in this. Trying to explain these things from scratch to someone with fierce intellect is difficult. I have great difficulties with remembrance day services and the concept of the glorious dead generally and specifically in the case of World War One. How anyone can continue to say that the soldiers of the Great War died for our "freedom" I don't know. If they died for any ideal (apart from the staggering personal courage some showed) maybe it's the glorious scepticism that in any civilised nation now surrounds concepts like patriotism and national duty.

Seems to me that the greatest, bleakest, poem about remembrance was written by a scot who died in the Great War.

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.

Charles Hamilton Sorley

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