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Poem by Charles Hamilton Sorley

A Call to Action


A thousand years have passed away,
⁠     Cast back your glances on the scene,
Compare this England of to-day
     ⁠With England as she once has been.

Fast beat the pulse of living then:
     ⁠The hum of movement, throb of war,
The rushing mighty sound of men
⁠     Reverberated loud and far.

They girt their loins up and they trod
⁠     The path of danger, rough and high;
For Action, Action was their god,
⁠     "Be up and doing" was their cry.

A thousand years have passed away;
⁠     The sands of life are running low;
The world is sleeping out her day;
     ⁠The day is dying be it so.

A thousand years have passed amain;
⁠     The sands of life are running thin;
Thought is our leaderThought is vain;
⁠     Speech is our goddessSpeech is sin.


It needs no thought to understand,
⁠     No speech to tell, nor sight to see
That there has come upon our land
     ⁠The curse of Inactivity.

We do not see the vital point
     ⁠That 'tis the eighth, most deadly, sin
To wail, "The world is out of joint"
⁠     And not attempt to put it in.

We see the swollen stream of crime
⁠     Flow hourly past us, thick and wide;
We gaze with interest for a time,
⁠     And pass by on the other side.

We see the tide of human sin
     ⁠Rush roaring past our very door,
And scarcely one man plunges in
⁠     To drag the drowning to the shore.

We, dull and dreamy, stand and blink,
⁠     Forgetting glory, strength and pride,
Halflistless watchers on the brink,
     Halfruined victims of the tide.


We question, answer, make defence,
     ⁠We sneer, we scoff, we criticize,
We wail and moan our decadence,
⁠     Enquire, investigate, surmise;

We preach and prattle, peer and pry
⁠     And fit together two and two:
We ponder, argue, shout, swear, lie
     ⁠We will not, for we cannot, do.

Pale puny soldiers of the pen,
     ⁠Absorbed in this your inky strife,
Act as of old, when men were men,
     ⁠England herself and life yet life. 

October 1912

Charles Hamilton Sorley

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

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