A version of this post that I put together several years ago and published elsewhere keeps coming up in the stats for that site, a few people each week popping by to read it … and so I read the poems again myself. Seems we have to learn the same lessons over and over. What Sorely writes still applies …
SUCH, SUCH IS DEATH (1915)
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 marvellous 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.
TO GERMANY (1914)
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.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.
When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.
– Charles Hamilton Sorely
Charles Hamilton Sorley was born in Aberdeen in 1894. He was the son of a professor of moral philosophy at Aberdeen University. When the First World War was declared in August 1914, Sorley enlisted in the British Army. He joined the Suffolk Regiment and after several months training he became Lieutenant Sorly was sent to the Western Front. Sorley arrived in France in May 1915 and after three months was promoted to captain. He was killed by a sniper at the Battle of Loos on October 13, 1915, leaving just thirty-seven poems completed. Sorley’s posthumously published book, Marlborough and Other Poems was as popular and critical success when it was published in 1916. [A more comprehensive bio is provided by the Poetry Foundation HERE.]
Photo credit ~ Charles Hamilton Sorely dated c. 1914/1915. The photo was first published in 1918. The poems came out in 1919 and are excerpts from Marlborough and Other Poems by Charles Hamilton Sorely. You can read the entire book on or download it from Internet Archives HERE.