National Poetry Month: The Song of the Ungirt Runners

April is National Poetry Month! Last year I brought to you a couple of poems by Kenn Nesbitt. This year, I’m bringing The Song of the Ungirt Runners by Charles Hamilton Sorley, a Scottish war poet and British Army officer. He was a cross country runner when he was a student at Marlborough College in England.

The Song of the Ungirt Runners answers the question of why most of us run. Let’s face it, we mortals do not run for the glory of winning gold at the Olympics. Most of us will never know what it’s like to win even a small race. Why do we run? We do not run for prize . . . . we run because we like it.

This poem was used in Clockwork Mice, a British film on the bond forged through running between a schoolteacher and a student with special needs. I linked a short clip of the movie with the poem at the end and I recommend watching it. Beyond the lush sweeping music and the melodic narration of the poem, I love the touching scene at the beginning of the teacher walking briskly and the student running toward him and “challenging” him to a run by throwing his running shoes at him.

The Song of the Ungirt Runners


We swing ungirded hips
and lighten’d are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whithereward 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 tree-tops 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.

YouTube: Clockwork Mice

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