Younger than Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, Aberdeen-born Charles Hamilton Sorley was only 20 when he was killed at Loos in 1915, leaving just 37 complete poems, including this devastatingly bleak sonnet.

As an indictment of war it can surely stand comparison with the works of his better-known English contemporaries.


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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 bears the face you knew.

Great death has made all his for evermore.