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10 November 2014

the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month almost a century ago

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When You See Millions 

of the Mouthless Dead

by Charles Hamilton Sorley

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.

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charles Hamilton Sorley
(19 May 1895 – 13 October 1915) was a British poet of World War I.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was the son of William Ritchie Sorley. He was educated, like Siegfried Sassoon, at Marlborough College (1908–13). At Marlborough College Sorley's favourite pursuit was cross-country running in the rain, a theme evident in many of his pre-war poems, including "Rain" and "The Song of the Ungirt Runners". In keeping with his strict Protestant upbringing, Sorley had strong views on right and wrong, and on two occasions volunteered to be punished for breaking school rules.

Before taking up a scholarship to study at University College, Oxford, Sorley spent a little more than six months in Germany from January to July in 1914, three months of which were at Schwerin studying the language and local culture. Then he enrolled at the University of Jena, and studied there up to the outbreak of World War I.

After Britain declared war on Germany, Sorley was detained for an afternoon in Trier, but released on the same day and told to leave the country. He returned to England and volunteered for military service, joining the Suffolk Regiment. He arrived at the Western Front in France as a lieutenant in May 1915, and quickly rose to the rank of captain at the age of twenty. Sorley was killed in action near Hulluch, where he was shot in the head by a sniper at the Battle of Loos on 13 October 1915.

Having no known grave at war's end, he is commemorated on the CWGC Loos Memorial.

Robert Graves, a contemporary of Sorley's, described him in his book "Goodbye to All That" as "one of the three poets of importance killed during the war." (The other two were Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen.) Sorley may be seen as a forerunner of Sassoon and Owen, and his unsentimental style stands in direct contrast to that of Rupert Brooke. Sorley's last poem was recovered from his kit after his death, and includes some of his most famous lines:

    When you see millions of the mouthless dead
    Across your dreams in pale battalions go


Sorley's sole work was published posthumously in January 1916 and immediately became a critical success, with six editions printed that year. Sorley is regarded by some, including the Poet Laureate John Masefield (1878–1967), as the greatest loss of all the poets killed during the war. 

On 11 November 1985, Sorley was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by Wilfred Owen. It reads:

"My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity."


I'll post this on the 11th day of the 11th month. It's almost midnight in my time zone.

Near the end of 1918, after a world war of astonishingly massive waste and loss of human life, the main combatants agreed that, along the Western Front in France, all guns would cease firing, and an Armistice declared. It was largely a coincidence, a convenience for generals and field marshals, that the guns would cease firing at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. 

In English-speaking lands this day became known as Armistice Day, and in Commonwealth countries Remembrance Day.

In the United States it eventually evolved into Veterans Day, and now honors everyone (living or not) who served in a USA military uniform.

I was drafted/conscripted and served in the United States Army from March 1969 to March 1971, during (but very far from) the Vietnam War. I was smart, college-educated, an astonishingly fast and accurate typist, and had a set of very rare professional skills -- very rare for the typical young guy who got nabbed by the wartime draft. The whole package, and a lot of Blind Luck, kept me far from the battlefield. I got some training on various military weapons. (I'm quite fond of the AK-47.)

When my 2-year (minimum) active service requirement ended, I'd made a good deal of enlisted rank -- Specialist 5, so I could max Unemployment benefits -- got a pretty fancy medal -- not involving courage or combat -- and a thank-you letter from my Commander in Chief, President Richard M. Nixon. (Much worse things happened to Poor Richard than to me. He's the only US president who resigned before his
presidential term ended. About a dozen or more of his White House cronies, including his former Attorney General, had to go to federal prison.)

The last time I checked, about 52,000 US soldiers, sailors, Marines, Air Force people, even a few very luckless Coast Guard men and women, were killed in our Vietnam War, which we totally lost. (Don't blame me, I typed as fast as I could and made very few mistakes.) A few of my high-school pals stopped living because of that war.

Tuesday 11/11 is a national holiday. The USA is (I hope) at or near the end of two Very Long Wars in Muslim countries in Asia, both declared by President George W. Bush.

This Veterans Day we got a metric shitload of veterans, from wars going all the way back to World War II (for the USA, December 1941 to August 1945). 

I think all our WWI vets have passed away by now. WWI began in August 1914.

In World War II, our side defeated all the Axis Powers -- Italy, Germany, Japan and about 6 other Axis nations -- and emphasized our victory by dropping the world's first atomic (fission) bombs on Hiroshima and, a few days later, on Nagasaki. The USA is still the only nation to have used nuclear weapons against an enemy.

The federal agency charged, since our 19th century Civil War, with taking care of our military veterans is the Veterans Administration, now re-named the (cabinet-level) Department of Veterans Affairs. As thousands of veterans, with all sorts of ghastly medical and neurological problems, return from these two long, fucked-up, pre-lost wars and Holy Crusades, Americans have learned that the DVA hospitals have been systematically running frauds and scams and crimes on all our veterans and treating them like shit -- or just not treating them at all, but cooking the books to pretend that the vets are receiving prompt medical care. The administrators who cook these "wait time" books are rewarded with big pay bonuses.

Fortunately I haven't had to rely on the VA much. But even my tangential, brief experiences with these creeps have all been poor, bad, ugly, nasty, occasionally malicious. These bureaucrats all suck, and I pray that hundreds of them all do the lengthy felony time they deserve in federal prison.

(I've done 4 hours in jail, for an anti-war protest against Desert Storm, at the nearby Air Base. One arrest, no convictions. Hahahaha.)

It's still not quite the 11th day of the 11th month, but I want to stop now before I start writhing and screaming.

Leave A Comment, let Vleeptron know how you feel about war in general, conscription, War Without End Amen, veterans, and the millions of the mouthless dead who go across your dreams in pale battalions. It is easy to be dead. Great death
has made all his for evermore.

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