Barbury Camp

Original Text: 
Charles Hamilton Sorley. Marlborough and other Poems. 4th edition. Cambridge: University Press, 1919: 3-5. PR 6037 O7M3 1919 Robarts Library
2Heaped the bank up and cast it in a ring
3And hurled the earth above. And Caesar said,
4"Why, it is excellent. I like the thing."
5We, who are dead,
6Made it, and wrought, and Caesar liked the thing.
7And here we strove, and here we felt each vein
8Ice-bound, each limb fast-frozen, all night long.
9And here we held communion with the rain
10That lashed us into manhood with its thong,
11Cleansing through pain.
12And the wind visited us and made us strong.
13Up from around us, numbers without name,
14Strong men and naked, vast, on either hand
15Pressing us in, they came. And the wind came
16And bitter rain, turning grey all the land.
17That was our game,
18To fight with men and storms, and it was grand.
19For many days we fought them, and our sweat
20Watered the grass, making it spring up green,
21Blooming for us. And, if the wind was wet,
22Our blood wetted the wind, making it keen
23With the hatred
24And wrath and courage that our blood had been.
25So, fighting men and winds and tempests, hot
26With joy and hate and battle-lust, we fell
27Where we fought. And God said, "Killed at last then? What!
28Ye that are too strong for heaven, too clean for hell,
29(God said) stir not.
30This be your heaven, or, if ye will, your hell."
31So again we fight and wrestle, and again
32Hurl the earth up and cast it in a ring.
33But when the wind comes up, driving the rain
34(Each rain-drop a fiery steed), and the mists rolling
35Up from the plain,
36This wild procession, this impetuous thing.
37Hold us amazed. We mount the wind-cars, then
38Whip up the steeds and drive through all the world,
39Searching to find somewhere some brethren,
40Sons of the winds and waters of the world.
41We, who were men,
42Have sought, and found no men in all this world.
43Wind, that has blown here always ceaselessly,
44Bringing, if any man can understand,
45Might to the mighty, freedom to the free;
46Wind, that has caught us, cleansed us, made us grand,
47Wind that is we
48(We that were men) -- make men in all this land,
49That so may live and wrestle and hate that when
50They fall at last exultant, as we fell,
51And come to God, God may say, "Do you come then
52Mildly enquiring, is it heaven or hell?
53Why! Ye were men!
54Back to your winds and rains. Be these your heaven and hell!"


1] "Barbury Camp is on the northern escarpment of the Marlborough downs, between five and six miles north by west from Marlborough. The camp on the summit is of pre-Roman origin. The preference for rain and windy weather, shown in this and other poems in the book, has suggested the poem entitled "Sorley's Weather" by Captain Robert Graves (Fairies and Fusiliers, 1917) which ends with the verse,
Yet rest there, Shelley, on the sill,
    For though the winds come frorely
I'm away to the rain-blown hill
    And the ghost of Sorley."
(note by W. R. S., p. 127). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.