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About this poet

Charles Hamilton Sorley was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on May 19, 1895. In 1900, the family moved to England when Sorley’s father, a professor of moral philosophy, accepted a post at Cambridge. In 1908 Sorely received a scholarship to Marlborough College, and after completing his studies there, he was offered a scholarship to University College, Oxford, in 1913. Before beginning at Oxford, however, he spent several months studying in Jena, Germany. Already a dedicated writer, he sent batches of poems to his mother during this time. When World War I broke out, Sorley was still in Germany, and he was detained for a night at Trier before returning to England. He enlisted in the British Army and was sent to the Western Front as a lieutenant in the Suffolk Regiment. Sorley was killed by a sniper at the Battle of Loos on October 13, 1915. His body was never found, but he is commemorated in a memorial in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey. Thirty-seven of his poems were published posthumously as Marlborough and Other Poems (Cambridge University Press, 1916).

Two Sonnets

                                     I  

Saints have adored the lofty soul of you.
Poets have whitened at your high renown.
We stand among the many millions who
Do hourly wait to pass your pathway down.
You, so familiar, once were strange: we tried 
To live as of your presence unaware.
But now in every road on every side
We see your straight and steadfast signpost there.

I think it like that signpost in my land,
Hoary and tall, which pointed me to go
Upward, into the hills, on the right hand,
Where the mists swim and the winds shriek and blow,
A homeless land and the friendless, but a land
I did not know and that I wished to know.

                                   II

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen 
So marvelous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say
“Come, what was your record when you drew breath?”
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead. 

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Charles Hamilton Sorley was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1895. He served in the British Army and was killed in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915. His poetry was published posthumously as Marlborough and Other Poems (Cambridge University Press, 1916).

by this poet

poem
I have not brought my Odyssey
With me here across the sea;
But you’ll remember, when I say
How, when they went down Sparta way,
To sandy Sparta, long ere dawn
Horses were harnessed, rations drawn,
Equipment polished sparkling bright,
And breakfasts swallowed (as the white
Of Eastern heavens turned to gold)—
The
poem

All the hills and vales along
Earth is bursting into song,
And the singers are the chaps
Who are going to die perhaps.
    O sing, marching men,
    Till the valleys ring again.
    Give your gladness to earth’s keeping,
    So be glad, when you are sleeping.

Cast away

poem

From morn to midnight, all day through,
I laugh and play as others do,
I sin and chatter, just the same
As others with a different name.

And all year long upon the stage,
I dance and tumble and do rage
So vehemently, I scarcely see
The inner and eternal me.

I have a temple