Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Song of the Ungirt Runners

The Bard on the Run, back from his morning run in the vineyards and woods of Vienna, pays tribute to the Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley killed by the sniper's bullet at the Battle of Loos on 13th October 1915 at the age of 20.
One of Sorley's poems is a favourite with fell runners; that breed of stringy men with hairy legs who run up and down mountains whilst the bagpipes play and sensible people enjoy the scenery and take a wee dram. If there is a Poet-in-Residence raison d'etre this is it:

The Song of the Ungirt Runners

We swing ungirded hips,
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the treetops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
'Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

Charles Hamilton Sorley
(1895 - 1915)


  1. What a wonderful poem! I didn't know it, but I won't forget it in a hurry. I'm probably biased because I can relate directly to its subject matter. My greatest claim to fame in that regard was coming last in the Langdale Skyline race one year - ungirt but certainly not unbeatable.

  2. Respect, Dominic. Completing the Langdale is a fine achievement. I never did it.
    My own claim to fame is that I did the Ben Nevis.
    10 - 12 years ago I was the newsletter editor for Clayton le Moors Harriers. That's where I 'discovered' the poem.


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