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Charles Hamilton Sorley (Чарльз Сорли)


Marlborough


I

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.

II

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.

III

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. 

1 March 1914

Charles Hamilton Sorley's other poems:
  1. There Is Such Change in All Those Fields
  2. To Poets
  3. East Kennet Church at Evening
  4. Le Revenant
  5. A Tale of Two Careers


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