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This article is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

Ivor Gurney: Unpublished Poems I George Walter

I. 'The best of the young men below the horizon'

Ivor Gurney's return to the Royal College of Music in January 1919 marks a watershed in his life. A musician by profession and a student at the College before the First World War, he was nevertheless also a published poet, with one volume- Severn & Somme- to his credit and another- War's Embers- forthcoming. That he had mixed feelings about his poetical career is clear from his wartime letters; writing to Marion Scott a month before the publication of Severn & Somme in November 1917, he comments:

… the sight of the whole thing in proof convinced me that humility should be my proper mood, and gratitude for a hobby found when one was needed. (Letters, p.3 36)/blockquote>

Elsewhere he writes of his conviction that 'music is my real game' (Letters, p.442) and although he recognises poetry as a useful creative outlet, it remains a diversion forced on him by his situation. Again and again he makes it clear that his intention is to 'chuck verse altogether and make music alone' once the war is over (Letters, p.461)

Yet the situation is not as straightforward as it seems. Gurney appears to have turned to poetry because conditions on the Western Front were not conducive to the sustained effort that composition requires. He soon discovered, however, that music did not come as readily as expected even when circumstances were more accommodating. Convalescing ...


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