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But what exists is striking enough, as are Sorley's prose and letters. In his time he was a devotee of Richard Jefferies, who had lived in and written about the same Wiltshire landscape. He contemplated journalism as a career. Keenly intelligent, with an inherited Scottish distaste for cant, he'd have made a superlative one; and the journalist might well have evolved into a major essayist.

Sorley's words also live on -- though the authorship is largely unnoticed -- in one of the finest large scale anthems of the early twentieth century. Charles Wood immortalised in music the final two verses of one of his last poems, Expectans Expectavi ('From morn to midnight all day through ...'), written in May 1915, just five months before he died [listen -- Imperial War disc track 3, Expectans Expectavi, 0:26-1:23], and first published in the Times Literary Supplement of 28 October, two weeks after his death :

I have a temple I do not
Visit, a heart I have forgot,
A self that I have never met,
A secret shine -- and yet, and yet
This sanctuary of my soul
Unwitting I keep white and whole,
Unlatched and lit, if Thou should'st care
To enter or to tarry there.
With parted lips and outstretched hands
And listening ears Thy servant stands,
Call Thou early, call Thou late,
To Thy great service dedicate.

Beginning 'This sanctuary of my soul ...', Wood's anthem Expectans Expectavi ranks among the noblest pieces of music heard in any cathedral today. The choir here is that of Sorley's old school, Marlborough College [listen -- Imperial War disc track 3, Expectans Expectavi, 2:44-3:55].

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Copyright © 26 December 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Malvern, Worcestershire, UK


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