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17 May 2005

pack up your troubles in your old kit bag

From a popular World War I song by George Henry Powell, tune by his brother Felix:

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile!
While you've a lucifer to light your fag
[while you've got a match to light your cigarette]
Smile boys, that's the style!
What's the use of worrying?
It never was worthwhile. So:
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile!

Charles Sorley, a Scot from Aberdeen, was shot through the head and died instantly at age 20, at the Battle of Loos, on Wednesday 13 October 1915. His body was lost, but his kit bag was found and sent home to his family. They found this poem inside it.

When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead
Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915)

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 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.

Original text: Charles Hamilton Sorley. Marlborough and other Poems. 4th edition. Cambridge: University Press, 1919: 78 (no. XXXIV).
First publication date: 1916
Composition date: 1915
Form: sonnet
Rhyme: ababbabacdcdcd


Blogger Leo Wong said...

Some reading about WWI from Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

What are the odds??? You linked to a quote from a book I've actually read!!!

And I love it, I love Russell's histories of Western thought! To Russell, no one is a Sacred Cow, everybody gets it right in the kishkas! What a wonderful writer, what a wonderful thinker, such courage!

This past weekend, big-ass Bertrand Russell Mathematical Logic convention at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario Canada, Finnish guy from the Glenn Gould list gave a paper. In English. If I'd been there, he might as well have given it in Suomi.


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