All the hills and vales along

He went to school in Marlborough and loved to take long and sometimes solitary walks across the Wilshire downs. So – here is Charles Sorley.. October 13th is the anniversary of his death in 1915.

Wiltshire Downs, Martinsell, Kate Allen Tryon (1865–1952) Richard Jefferies’ House and Museum

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 glad, 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
‘Neath the cross that Christ had,
Shall rejoice and blossom too
When the bullet reaches you.
Wherefore, men marching
On the road to death, sing!
Pour your gladness on earth’s head,
So be merry, so be 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 glad song-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.
Strew your gladness on earth’s bed,
So be merry, so be dead.
    Charles Hamilton Sorley

Downland Landscape, Wiltshire
K. Illingworth 1952
Swindon Art Gallery

Landscape at Aldbourne, Wiltshire
Ambrose McEvoy (1878–1927) 1912
Reading Museum & Town Hall

Wiltshire Downs, Martinsell
Kate Allen Tryon (1865–1952) 1910
Richard Jefferies’ House and Museum

The Downs near Marlborough, Wiltshire
Christopher Hughes (1881–1961)
Wiltshire Museum

Sorley was one of 749 members of the Marlborough College community who lost their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918.

1 Comment

  1. Dierj:

    So many interesting posts piling up to read. Busy but sneaked in time for this one. How impossible it is for us to comprehend the countryside of England pre WW1, people’s lives, social norms, attitudes. But their poetry speaks something to us and the draw the countryside is still there. Beautiful Wiltshire Downs to be enjoyed. Thanks for all the work and interest of your many posts. I will store them away for an evening or more for a little bite of new interest with a cream cracker and piece of cheese.

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