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Marlborough by Charles Sorley

Wilfred Owen
John McCrae
Isaac Rosenberg
Siegfried Sassoon
Rupert Brooke
Charles Sorley
Alan Seeger
William Hodgson
Herbert Read
Edward Thomas
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By Charles Sorley


CROUCHED where the open upland billows down
Into the valley where the river flows,
She is as any other country town,
That little lives or marks or hears or knows.

And she can teach but little. She has not
The wonder and the surging and the roar
Of striving cities. Only things forgot
That once were beautiful, but now no more,

Has she to give us. Yet to one or two
She first brought knowledge, and it was for her
To open first our eyes, until we knew
How great, immeasurably great, we were.

I, who have walked along her downs in dreams,
And known her tenderness, and felt her might,
And sometimes by her meadows and her streams
Have drunk deep-storied secrets of delight,

Have had my moments there, when I have been
Unwittingly aware of something more,
Some beautiful aspect, that I had seen
With mute unspeculative eyes before;

Have had my times, when, though the earth did wear
Her self-same trees and grasses, I could see
The revelation that is always there,
But somehow is not always clear to me.


So, long ago, one halted on his way
And sent his company and cattle on;
His caravans trooped darkling far away
Into the night, and he was left alone.

And he was left alone. And, lo, a man
There wrestled with him till the break of day.
The brook was silent and the night was wan.
And when the dawn was come, he passed away.

The sinew of the hollow of his thigh
Was shrunken, as he wrestled there alone.
The brook was silent, but the dawn was nigh.
The stranger named him Israel and was gone.

And the sun rose on Jacob; and he knew
That he was no more Jacob, but had grown
A more immortal vaster spirit, who
Had seen God face to face, and still lived on.

The plain that seemed to stretch away to God,
The brook that saw and heard and knew no fear,
Were now the self-same soul as he who stood
And waited for his brother to draw near.

For God had wrestled with him, and was gone.
He looked around, and only God remained.
The dawn, the desert, he and God were one.
--And Esau came to meet him, travel-stained.


So, there, when sunset made the downs look new
And earth gave up her colours to the sky,
And far away the little city grew
Half into sight, new-visioned was my eye.

I, who have lived, and trod her lovely earth,
Raced with her winds and listened to her birds,
Have cared but little for their worldly worth
Nor sought to put my passion into words.

But now it's different; and I have no rest
Because my hand must search, dissect and spell
The beauty that is better not expressed,
The thing that all can feel, but none can tell.

I March 1914

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