“A hundred thousand million mites we go”

A hundred thousand million mites we go
Wheeling and taking o’er the eternal plain,
Some black with death—and some are white with woe.
Who send us forth?   Who takes us home again?

And there is sound of hymns of praise—to whom?
And curses—on whom curses?—snap the air.
And there is hope goes hand in hand with gloom,
And blood and indignation and despair.

And there is murmuring of the multitude
And blindness and great blindness, until some
Step forth and challenge blind Vicissitude
Who tramples on them: so that fewer come.

And nations, ankle-deep in love or hate,
Throw darts or kisses all the unwitting hour
Beside the ominous unseen tide of fate;
And there is emptiness and drink and power.

And some are mounted on swift steeds of thought
And some drag sluggish feet of stable toil.
Yet all, as though they furiously sought,
Twist turn and tussle, close and cling and coil.

A hundred thousand million mites we sway
Writhing and tossing on the eternal plain,
Some black with death—but most are bright with Day!
Who sent us forth? Who brings us home again?

From Marlborough and Other Poems (Cambridge University Press, 1919) by Charles Hamilton Sorley. Copyright © 1919 by Charles Hamilton Sorley. This poem is in the public domain.