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This article is taken from PN Review 164, Volume 31 Number 6, July - August 2005.

Blessed Rage for Order: Ivor Gurney's Collected Poems R.K.R. Thornton

When the first edition of this Collected Poems appeared in 1982, there was no certainty that an audience existed for Gurney's poetry. Gurney's two little books, Severn and Somme (1917) and War's Embers (1919) had made little impact when they were published. J.C. Squire's attempts to find him an audience in The London Mercury in the 1920s and 1930s were unsuccessful and only brought criticism on the editor. Two attempts to bring Gurney's poetry back to the notice of the public, Edmund Blunden's Poems of Ivor Gurney (1954), which printed 78 poems, and Leonard Clark's Poems of Ivor Gurney (1973), which printed 140, found no eager group demanding a second edition. Blunden himself mused that the 'bright boys' of modern criticism didn't 'appear...to have noticed their chance' when they ignored Gurney's striking modernity. His work inspired enthusiastic individuals but not yet an enthusiastic public.

Not that there was a total lack of interest, particularly in Gurney's music, where his reputation as a composer of English art-song was kept alive by admirers such as Marion Scott, Gerald Finzi and Michael Hurd. The Carnegie Collection of British Music had published two of his song-cycles in 1923 and 1926, and Oxford published volumes of his song settings in groups of ten: two in 1938, and one in each of 1952, 1959 and 1979; and vocal score reprints of the ...


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