|It Is Easy To Be Dead - Aberdeen Performing Arts|
|Charles Hamilton Sorley|
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
He was under no illusions about the cost of the coming war in terms of the misery it would bring - the poem's last line reads: "until peace, the storm, the darkness and the thunder and the rain." As his father, a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, said of his son in the preface to the volume of letters and poems: ‘He looked on the world with clear eyes and the surface show did not deceive him.’
The title of the play, It Is Easy To Be Dead, comes from perhaps Sorley's best known poem and his last one: When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead. It was written shortly before his death and found with his kit. It is a beautiful poem; that a twenty-year old had learned to be so aware of the reality of war and the ultimate futility of weeping for the dead makes it a heart-breaking one.
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.
Sorley didn't live to see what came next - as we remember those who died in a frighteningly divided world, let's hope we don't live to regret what's coming next for us.