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For Ivor Gurney

Donald Davie, 3 March 1983

... or Avon – what Administrative fiction Shall God be praised for? School Poets to sane depiction. Gurney, whose burning need And uninstructed eye Were partisan for Gloucester, Yet at St Albans too Endowed mere masonry With meanings out of true. Of cloud and tower, he cried, Of tower and cloud! ... and pointed Towards Tewkesbury. The use of Dilapidated ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... Most loyal and protective of Gurney’s many friends, Marion Scott wrote after one of her regular visits to the asylum: ‘Ivor is so heart-breakingly sane in his insanity.’ Letters, reported conversation, music, poems all attest to the fact. He was trained and already admired as a composer before enlistment; in the trenches poetry had occupied him more and more and, when he returned afterwards to music, the poetry continued ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric, 4 December 2008

In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... terrain. Set in the City of London Mental Hospital, Dartford, its protagonist is the poet-composer Ivor Gurney, who was a patient there from December 1922 until his death from tuberculosis 15 years later. Edric’s fascination with lives on the margins makes Gurney a logical choice. As a poet, his star has spent decades ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: David Jones’s War, 19 March 2015

... the officer class – that are perhaps more stirring and certainly more accessible. Jones, like Ivor Gurney and Isaac Rosenberg, was not an officer, even though he was offered the chance in the spring of 1916. He said he didn’t think he was ‘that sort of person’, and then, when his commanding officer pressed him: ‘I’m totally ...

Gurney’s Flood

Donald Davie, 3 February 1983

Geoffrey Grigson: Collected Poems 1963-1980 
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 419 4Show More
The Cornish Dancer 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.95, June 1982, 0 436 18805 8
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 420 8
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses: A Critical Collection 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, £9.95, November 1982, 0 85031 437 2
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Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney 
edited by P.J. Kavanagh.
Oxford, 284 pp., £12, September 1982, 0 19 211940 0
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War Letters 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 271 pp., £12, February 1983, 0 85635 408 2
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... Histoire’, and (an unusual exertion of sympathy) ‘Dulled Son of Man’. In a poem to Ivor Gurney, Grigson, who can sometimes be magnanimous to the dead, hails Gurney as a poet of ecstasy. In his own case, it is his hatreds that are ecstatic, and one wonders how he would get along if Larkin and Alvarez and ...

Other Poems and Other Poets

Donald Davie, 20 September 1984

Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... moves into another register, altogether more plangent and dense. For instance, a short poem ‘To Ivor Gurney’ is deeply sorrowful, and yet it rests on no judgment overtly passed, nor even with any certainty implied, about what has happened to the Cotswold and Malvern hills since Gurney walked on them. Change, or ...

Swift radiant morning

D.J. Enright, 21 February 1991

The Collected Letters of Charles Hamilton Sorley 
edited by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Cecil Woolf, 310 pp., £25, November 1990, 9780900821547
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Ivor GurneyCollected Letters 
edited by R.K.R Thornton.
Mid-Northumberland Arts Group/Carcanet, 579 pp., £25, February 1991, 0 85635 941 6
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... one, that might have kept the best of the old world and changed the rest of it, or some of it. Ivor Gurney’s fate was worse and also better. ‘May 1925 see us both happy and revered by the few who count and know the good when they see it,’ he wrote to F.W. Harvey in February 1915. ‘Meanwhile there is a most bloody and damnable war to go ...
... break the enchanted spell and show their people what the face of war was really like. Some, like Ivor Gurney and Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas, quietly described their experiences without bitterness or emphasis, with much the same detachment and penetration with which they described the peaceful scenes that had first evoked their poetic gifts. Their ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Shot At Dawn, 30 November 2006

... discipline worse than serving with the 10th (Irish) Division in Gallipoli? He and his fellow survivors among the Leinsters had been transferred away from there in the autumn. Soldiers who lost the plot, as Downey did, present hard men like John Reid with a conundrum: why excuse cowards, deserters and insubordinates when so many others, including under-age ...

Condy’s Fluid

P.N. Furbank, 25 October 1990

A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture 
by Samuel Hynes.
Bodley Head, 514 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 370 30451 9
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Killing in Verse and Prose, and Other Essays 
by Paul Fussell.
Bellew, 294 pp., £9.95, October 1990, 0 947792 55 4
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... inspiring motive for two of the other finest combatant poets of the Great War, Edward Thomas and Ivor Gurney, was patriotism. One could, if one wished, even make Edward Thomas out to be a jingoist, for did he not write: But with the best and meanest Englishmen I am one in crying, God save England, lest We lose what never slaves and cattle blessed. The ...


Denis Donoghue: Karlin’s collection of Victorian verse, 4 June 1998

The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Danny Karlin.
Allen Lane, 851 pp., £25, October 1997, 9780713990492
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... English Verse. But these achievements were not enough to modify Leavis’s conviction of ‘the divorce between thought and feeling, intelligence and sensibility, that is characteristic of the 19th century’. The poetry of the period, he maintained, ‘was characteristically preoccupied with the creation of a dream-world’. Victorian poetry ‘admits ...

Playing Fields, Flanders Fields

Paul Delany, 21 January 1982

War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... of the nation’s youth; and they blamed the post-war decline of Britain on their absence. The survivors – guilty, perhaps, simply of having survived – were left to bear the burden of a disappointing and mediocre peace. Brittain became a leading spokeswoman for this national myth. What substance did it have? Economically, not much: the Twenties slump was ...

Come and Stay

Arnold Rattenbury, 27 November 1997

England and the Octopus 
by Clough Williams-Ellis.
CPRE, 220 pp., £10.95, December 1996, 0 946044 50 3
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Clough Williams-Ellis: RIBA Drawings Monograph No 2 
by Richard Haslam.
Academy, 112 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 1 85490 430 2
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Clough Williams-Ellis: The Architect of Portmeirion 
by Jonah Jones.
Seren, 204 pp., £9.95, December 1996, 1 85411 166 3
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... and perspective for a memorial hall of 1919, black-bordered in grief.) Like all the soldier-survivors of that generation, Clough knew that homes for heroes meant rehousing the whole of the working class: Not brick and tile, but wood, thatch, walls of mixed Material, and buildings in plain strength fixed. ... O better this sort of shelter – And villages ...


Denis Arnold, 19 September 1985

Interpreting Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’: A Performer’s Discourse of Method 
by Ralph Kirkpatrick.
Yale, 132 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 0 300 03058 4
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Bach, Handel, Scarlatti: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Peter Williams.
Cambridge, 363 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 25217 2
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Handel: The Man and his Music 
by Jonathan Keates.
Gollancz, 346 pp., £12.95, February 1985, 0 575 03573 0
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Sensibility and English Song: Critical Studies of the Early 20th Century: Vols I and II 
by Stephen Banfield.
Cambridge, 619 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 23085 3
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... composers mainly in the first half of the 20th century. There are one or two bright spots, notably Ivor Gurney, but it makes dismal reading. Here is a country with a splendid tradition of lyric poetry at a time when such poetry was flourishing, a wealthy country where there are publishing houses and a decent bourgeois audience – and its songs are on the ...

Boss of the Plains

D.A.N. Jones, 19 May 1983

The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 284 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 503102 4
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... The Britons discussed are notably comical or vulnerable men of talent (Boswell and Corvo, Ivor Gurney and Evelyn Waugh), men whom an American can patronise a little. Graham Greene does not appear here, since Paul Fussell is suspicious of him. Greene is inclined to patronise Americans: he is one of those over-subtle Europeans, like Nabokov, to be ...

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