Born in Gloucestershire, Ivor Gurney was educated at the Royal College of Music and was already writing poetry and composing music before the war. He volunteered to fight, but was sent home wounded after a gas attack, after which he developed a mental illness. Later, in 1922, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and was given the ‘shock treatment’ of that medical era – an experience he found extremely frightening. He continued to write both poetry and music. He died in 1937 of tuberculosis.Image © Gloucestershire Archives,
Gloucestershire County Council
To His Love
He’s gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We’ll walk no more on Cotswold
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.
His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn river
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.
You would not know him now…
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.
Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers –
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.
Pain, pain continual, pain unending;
Hard even to the roughest, but to those
Hungry for beauty . . . . Not the wisest knows,
Nor the most pitiful-hearted, what the wending
Of one hour’s way meant. Grey monotony lending
Weight to the grey skies, grey mud where goes
An army of grey bedrenched scarecrows in rows
Careless at last of cruellest Fate-sending.
Seeing the pitiful eyes of men foredone,
Or horses shot, too tired merely to stir,
Dying in shell-holes both, slain by the mud.
Men broken, shrieking even to hear a gun. –
Till pain grinds down, or lethargy numbs her,
The amazed heart cries angrily out on God.
(Respectful note to estate / publishers, please contact me if there are any copyright / permission issues)