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Poem by Charles Hamilton Sorley

A Tale of Two Careers


He does not dress as other men,
⁠     His 'kish' is loud and gay,
His 'side' is as the 'side' of ten
⁠     Because his 'barnes' are grey.

His head has swollen to a size
     ⁠Beyond the proper size for heads,
He metaphorically buys
     ⁠The ground on which he treads.

Before his face of haughty grace
     ⁠The ordinary mortal cowers:
A 'forty-cap' has put the chap
     ⁠Into another world from ours.

The funny little world that lies
⁠     'Twixt High Street and the Mound
Is just a swarm of buzzing flies
⁠     That aimlessly go round:

If one is stronger in the limb
     ⁠Or better able to work hard,
It's quite amusing to watch him
⁠     Ascending heavenward.

But if one cannot work or play
⁠     (Who loves the better part too well),
It's really sad to see the lad
⁠     Retained compulsorily in hell.


We are the wasters, who have no
⁠     Hope in this world here, neither fame,
Because we cannot collar low
⁠     Nor write a strange dead tongue the same
As strange dead men did long ago.

We are the weary, who begin
⁠     The race with joy, but early fail,
Because we do not care to win
⁠     A race that goes not to the frail
And humble: only the proud come in.

We are the shadow-forms, who pass
     ⁠Unheeded hence from work and play.
We are to-day, but like the grass
⁠     That to-day is, we pass away;
And no one stops to say 'Alas!'

Though we have little, all we have
⁠     We give our School. And no return
We can expect for what we gave;
⁠     No joys; only a summons stern,
"Depart, for others entrance crave!"

As soon as she can clearly prove
⁠     That from us is no hope of gain,
Because we only bring her love
     ⁠And cannot bring her strength or brain,
She tells us, "Go: it is enough."

She turns us out at seventeen,
     ⁠We may not know her any more,
And all our life with her has been
     ⁠A life of seeing others score,
While we sink lower and are mean.

We have seen others reap success
⁠     Full-measure. None has come to us.
Our life has been one failure. Yes,
⁠     But does not God prefer it thus?
God does not also praise success.

And for each failure that we meet,
     ⁠And for each place we drop behind,
Each toil that holds our aching feet,
     ⁠Each star we seek and never find,
God, knowing, gives us comfort meet.

The School we care for has not cared
⁠     To cherish nor keep our names to be
Memorials. God hath prepared
⁠     Some better thing for us, for we
His hopes have known, His failures shared. 

November 1912

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Charles Hamilton Sorley's other poems:
  1. There Is Such Change in All Those Fields
  2. East Kennet Church at Evening
  3. Le Revenant
  4. In Memoriam S. C. W., V.C.
  5. J. B.

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