When we first admire a person after death we are apt to feel a kind of joy that he is now unalterable, not to be pottered over or finicked with or painted out for some supposed improvement. In spite of reason we cannot really regret Keats' maturity, much less his old age. As we have been prevented by the centuries from sitting on the jury which banished Pheidias, we dote on his maimed and footless Theseus, and doubt whether the marble has not been improved by rough-handed Time; while we neglect or patronise the young sculptor in whom a like creative force struggles against the odds, with our long-established apathy. Only if we have followed its growth with all our hopes, a life seems broken through, snapped off and its promise wasted by early death. Then we wonder whether it is civilisation or barbarism that defends itself at such a cost. And the failure to preserve at least those who were creatively gifted from exposure, seems proof that our foresight was at fault, or our scale of values inadequate. Sorley, the youngest, and it may be the most hope-inspiring of our poet soldiers, has set me musing thus. He is so fine, Death seems to have saved him from misshaping Life.
His language is poor and thin, but it moves powerfully, and constantly suggests organic forms. This is most unlooked for in a tyro. Sensuous images are extraordinarily persisted in, and as strangely few. Rain, wind, running, one particular spot on the downs where four grass tracks separate east, west, south and north, from a tall, weathered sign-post, and the "red-capped town" of Marlborough, where he was at school—these images return and return, ever freshly applied; but there is no
- Marlborough and Other Verses, etc. C. H. Sorley. Cambridge University Press. Quotations by permission of Professor W. R. Sorley.