Prose & Poetry - Charles Hamilton Sorley
Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915) was born in Aberdeen on 19 May 1895. An exceptionally intelligent child, his father, William Ritchie Sorley, was a professor at the University of Aberdeen.
Living in Cambridge from 1900 onwards, Sorley was educated at first Marlborough College from 1908-13, where he excelled at debating, to be followed by University College, Oxford after he won a scholarship.
Before starting his studies at Oxford however, Sorley decided to spend a year in Germany, in 1913, first in Mecklenburg and afterwards at the University of Jena.
It was during this time that war was declared. Sorley was initially interned at Trier but released after one night, with instructions to leave the country.
Sorley, impatient to sign up, returned home and enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment in 1914 as a 2nd Lieutenant, arriving in France on 30 May 1915 as a full Lieutenant, where he served near Ploegsteert. He was promoted to captain in August 1915.
His poems, 37 of which were complete, were found in his kit following his death, and Marlborough and Other Poems was published posthumously in 1916, and went through four editions.
When You See Millions Of The Mouthless Dead (1915)
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 overcrowded 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 this for evermore.
The German word "U-Boat" was derived from "Unterseeboot" (undersea boat).
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