I like to quote something on Remembrance Day, but not the triteness of MacRae, which seems almost jaunty.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
And sadly Owen and Sassoon are overdone on this day, although I have used them in the past on other blogs. Today I was looking for a poem that summed up my thoughts at the moment; that the dead are dead, that they didn’t die for us, a near or remote posterity; they died for themselves, for their families, or for nothing, dying like most people in a similar situation, thinking it couldn’t happen to them.
And I remember those who survived; people like my grandfather who really got off very lightly, and yet who only ever talked about his experiences briefly and then towards the end of his life. Others were not so lucky, and never escaped from the nightmare, whether through physical or mental mutilation.
Here’s a poem by Charles Hamilton Sorely (1895-1915)
When you see the 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. 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.
Not a poem about remembrance per se, but I think it touches on what I have said above; don’t praise the heroic sacrifice of the dead – what do they care? But it also acknowledges that the survivors will remember, even in dreams.