Ivor Gurney

Ivor Gurney Poems

I shot him, and it had to be
One of us 'Twas him or me.
'Couln't be helped' and none can blame
Me, for you would do the same

My heart makes songs on lonely roads
To comfort me while you're away,
And strives with lovely sounding words
Its crowded tenderness to say.

The songs I had are withered
Or vanished clean,
Yet there are bright tracks
Where I have been,

He's gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed

Who died on the wires, and hung there, one of two -
Who for his hours of life had chattered through
Infinite lovely chatter of Bucks accent:

Now, youth, the hour of thy dread passion comes;
Thy lovely things must all be laid away;
And thou, as others, must face the riven day

I watched the boys of England where they went
Through mud and water to do appointed things.
See one a stake, and one wire-netting brings,

As I went up by Ovillers
In mud and water cold to the knee,
There went three jeering, fleeing spectres,
That walked abreast and talked of me.


Pain, pain continual; pain unending;
Hard even to the roughest, but to those
Hungry for beauty . . . Not the wisest knows,

When March blows, and Monday's linen is shown
On the goose berry bushes, and the worried washer alone

Half dead with sheer tiredness, wakened quick at night •
With dysentry pangs, going blind among sleepers


Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold
Your loveliest shining from earth’s outworn shell

Suddenly into the still air burst thudding
And thudding and cold fear possessed me all,
On the gray slopes there, where Winter in sullen brooding

There are strange Hells within the minds War made
Not so often, not so humiliating afraid

Certain people would not clean their buttons,
Nor polish buckles after latest fashions,
Preferred their hair long, putties comfortable,

So the last poem is laid flat in its place,
And Crickley with Crucifix Comer leaves from my face

Gloucester streets walking in Autumn twilight,
Past Kineburgh's cottage and old Raven Tavern,
That Hoare he kept, the Puritan, who tired

Of course not all the watchers of the dawn
See Severn mists like forced-march mists withdraw
London has darkness changing into light

Mist lies heavy on English meadows
As ever in Ypres, but the friendliness
Here is greater in full field and hedge shadow.

The dearness of common things -
Beech wood, tea, plate-shelves,
And the whole family of crockery -
Wood-axes, blades, helves.

Ivor Gurney Biography

Ivor Bertie Gurney (28 August 1890 - 26 December 1937) was an English composer and war poet. Born at 3 Queen Street, Gloucester in 1890, Gurney sang as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral, from 1900 to 1906, when he became an articled pupil of Dr Herbert Brewer at the cathedral. During this time he met composer Herbert Howells, also a pupil of Brewer, and, in 1908, he met the future poet F. W. Harvey. Gurney began composing music at the age of 14,[1] and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1911. He studied there with Charles Villiers Stanford, who also taught Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Marion M. Scott, Rebecca Clarke, Frank Bridge, Arthur Bliss, Howells and many others. Stanford told Howells that Gurney was potentially "the biggest of them all", but he was "unteachable". Gurney's studies were interrupted by World War I as he enlisted as a private soldier in the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was wounded in April 1917 and gassed in September the same year. "Being gassed (mildly) [Gurney’s parenthesis] with the new gas is no worse than catarrh or a bad cold” Gurney explained in a letter to Marion Scott on 17 September 1917. The gas had no lasting effects on him and was not a factor in his bipolar illness. After his release from hospital he was posted to Seaton Delaval, a mining village in Northumberland, where he wrote poems including 'Lying awake in the ward'. His first volume of poetry, Severn and Somme, was published in November 1917, followed by War's Embers in 1919. By March 1918 Gurney was in the Gallery Ward in Brancepeth Castle, County Durham, where he wrote several songs, despite the piano sounding like "a boiler factory in full swing because of the stone walls". After the war, he returned to London to resume his music studies at the RCM with Vaughan Williams. Gurney suffered from bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness, which showed symptoms during his mid-teens and led to his first documented breakdown in 1913, followed by a major breakdown in the spring of 1918 while he was still in uniform. His 1918 nervous breakdown was triggered by the failure of his relationship with VAD Annie Nelson Drummond whom he met when he was a patient at the Edinburgh War Hospital.(September to October 1917). The notion of Gurney as a victim of shell shock derives from Gurney's close friend, the critic-musicologist Marion Scott, who wrote the initial press releases after Gurney's death suggesting that his illness was connected to the war. She also wrote the first Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians entry on Gurney using the term "shell shock". Although Gurney seemed to thrive after the war when he was regarded as one of the most promising men of his generation, his untreated bipolar illness continued to worsen.By 1922, his condition had deteriorated to the point where his family had him declared insane. He spent the last 15 years of his life in mental hospitals, first for a short period at Barnwood House in Gloucester, and then at the City of London Mental Hospital, Dartford, where he was diagnosed as suffering from "delusional insanity (systematized)". He continued to write poetry and a scattering of music, which was collected and preserved by Scott and later edited by Edmund Blunden, Gerald Finzi, and others.)

The Best Poem Of Ivor Gurney

The Target

I shot him, and it had to be
One of us 'Twas him or me.
'Couln't be helped' and none can blame
Me, for you would do the same

My mother, she cant sleep for fear
Of what might be a-happening here
To me. Perhaps it might be best
To die, and set her fears at rest

For worst is worst, and worry's done.
Perhaps he was the only son. . .
Yet God keeps still, and does not say
A word of guidance anyway.

Well, if they get me, first I'll find
That boy, and tell him all my mind,
And see who felt the bullet worst,
And ask his pardon,if I durst.

All's a tangle. Here's my job.
A man might rave, or shout, or sob;
And God He takes takes no sort of heed.
This is a bloody mess indeed.

Ivor Gurney Comments

Gerald Cassad 03 July 2019

To England a note is about his war expierences and seeing dead soldiers on stakes and on barbed wire, and some being shot

0 0 Reply
John mason 03 January 2019

What I want to do is analyse but I want to no what the poem means

1 1 Reply
John mason 06 December 2018

I want to analyse to England a note

2 1 Reply

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