Ivor Gurney

(1890-1937)

Ivor Bertie Gurney is buried in the churchyard of St. Matthew's Church, Twigworth, Gloucestershire, England.

Gurney was born in Gloucester and won a scholarship to the Royal School of Music in 1911. But his studies were interrupted by the First World War - where he served for two years in the Gloucestershire Regiment as a private. During his time at the front he was wounded and gassed.
 

Ivor Gurney's Grave (Photograph by Chris Goddard)

 

Ivor Gurney

He published two volumes of war poetry: Severn and Somme (1917) and War's Embers (1919). Many of the poems deal with the horrors of the trenches - but there are also nostalgic evocations of his home county. The influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy can be seen in his work.

His work also exhibits clear signs of mental instability and it is likely that he suffered from bi-polar disease from an early age. After being demobbed, he had various jobs and also spent time sleeping rough. However, he became increasingly unsettled and was eventually committed to the City of London Mental Hospital in Dartford. He spent the rest of his life in care.

In spite of his mental health problems he continued to write poetry and to compose music through-out his life. He wrote scores to accompany the work of both Edward Thomas and A.E. Housman. He also set a number of his own poems to music - the best known being Severn Meadows.

In 1954, Edmund Blunden published a posthumous collection of his poems and interest in Gurney's work has been growing ever since. Philip Larkin chose the poem Strange Hells to include in his selection of 20th Century English Verse. The poem ends with the moving line: 'The heart burns - but has to keep out of face how heart burns.'

Links:

Ivor Gurney Society

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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