CHARLES HAMILTON SORLEY (1895 – 1915)
Charles Hamilton Sorley was born in Aberdeen in 1894. The son of the profressor of moral philosphy at Aberdeen University, Sorley was extremely intelligent and won a scholarship to Marlborough College.
In 1913 Sorely spent a year in Germany before taking up the offer of a place at University college, Cambridge. When war (World War I) was declared in August 1914, Sorley returned to England and enlisted in the British Army. He joined the Suffolk Regiment and after several months training, Lieutenant Sorly was sent to the Western Front.
Sorley arrived in France in May 1915 and after three months was promoted to captain. Charles Hamilton Sorley was killed by a sniper at the Battle of Loos on October 13, 1915. He left only 37 complete poems, including the one he wrote just before he was killed, When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead. Sorley’s posthumous book, Marlborough and Other Poems* was popular and achieved critical success when it was published in 1916. [adapted from Spartacus Educational, a site developed by John Simpkin (MPhil.), British educator, historian, and member of the European History E-Learning Project] J.D.
SUCH, SUCH IS DEATH (1915)
Charles Hamilton Sorley
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)
Charles Hamilton Sorely
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.
Photo credit ~ a cropped and retouched version of a portrait of British soldier poet, Charles Hamitlton Sorely dated c. 1914/1915, since Mr. Sorely is in uniform here and was enlisted in 1914 and killed in 1915. The photo was first published in 1918. The collection of his poems came out in 1919. The photo is from For Remembrance: Soldier Poets Who Have Fallen in the War. The photograph is in the public domain.
*Poems ~ excepts from Marlborough and Other Poems by Charles Hamilton Sorely. It would appear that this book is currently in the public domain. You can read the entire book on or download it from Internet Archives HERE.