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.
from “To Germany.”
On October 13th 1915, while the Battle of Loos [Belgium] was raging, a German sniper shot a captain in the Suffolk Regiment in the head and in so doing, ended the life of one of Britain’s most promising young poets.
Like many of his opposite numbers, Sorley had studied abroad, in Germany, and so was no knee-jerk jingoist. But he felt a duty to serve his country. He left behind a single posthumous volume, Marlborough and Other Poems and on the basis of that one slim volume alone, he seems to have been more influenced by Continental literary trends than the other British war poets still toiling in the long shadows cast by the Romantics. Certain of Sorley’s poems seem almost Expressionist in tone, a memento perhaps of his time spent as a student in Germany.
Whether Sorley’s expressionism came from literary journals or from the heart, the quality of the poems in his lone volume suggest that England’s loss was great. This was no Rupert Brooke re-cycling past glories. If Sorley’s death was not the great loss in British literature, it should be considered second only to that of Edward Thomas. Twenty years are not a lot of time t make one’s mark, but if such poet/critics as Robert Graves and John Masefield are to be believed, Charles Sorley succeeded brilliantly.