War and the Muses - “All the Hills and Vales Along”
Like many other idealistic young men of good family in his generation, when World War I came Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915), answered the call of “King and Country” and enlisted in 1914. A year later he was commissioned, and was shortly promoted to captain. Soon after that he was killed in action at Loos on October 13, 1915.
Sorley wrote but few poems. Nevertheless, their quality was such that Robert Graves called him one of the three “truly great poets of the war,” along with Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg. Sorley’s most memorable poem is “All the Hills and Vales Along,” which might be seen as a hymn to the fighting man, or perhaps as a satire on some of the more common “glorious” war poetry of the era.
|“All the Hills and Vales Along”|
|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 lad, when you are sleeping.
Cast away regret and rue,
Think what you are marching to.
Little live, great pass.
Jesus Christ and Barabbas
Were found the same day.
This died, that went his way.
So sing with joyful breath,
For why, you are going to death.
Teeming earth will surely store
All the gladness that you pour.
Earth that never doubts nor fears,
Earth that knows of death, not tears,
Earth that bore with joyful ease
Hemlock for Socrates,
Earth that blossomed and was glad
‘Earth the cross that Christ had,
Shall rejoice and blossom too
When the bullet reaches you.
Wherefore, men marching
On the road to fear sing!
Pour your gladness on earth’s
So be merry, so dead.
From the hills and valleys earth
Shouts back the sound of mirth,
Tramp of feet and lilt of song
Ringing all the road along.
All the music of their going,
Ringing swinging lad son-throwing,
Earth will echo still, when foot
Lies numb and voice mute.
On, marching men, on
To the gates of death with song.
Sow your gladness for earth’s reaping,
So you may be glad, though sleeping.
Stew your gladness on earth’s bed,
So be merry, so be dead.
|Charles Hamilton Sorley,
Killed in action,|
October 13, 1915,