[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Crucifix Corner

There was a water dump there, and regimental
Carts came every day to line up and fill full
Those rolling tanks with chlorinated clear mixture;
And curse the mud with vain veritable vexture.
Aveluy across the valley, billets, shacks, ruins,
With time and time a crump there to mark doings.
On New Year's Eve the marsh glowed tremulous
With rosy mist still holding late marvellous
Sun-glow, the air smelt home; the time breathed home.
Noel not put away; new term not yet come,
All things said 'Severn', the air was full of those calm meadows;
Transport rattled somewhere in the southern shadows;
Stars that were not strange ruled the most quiet high
Arch of soft sky, starred and most grave to see, most high.
What should break that but gun-noise or last Trump?
But neither came. At sudden, with light jump
Clarinet sang into 'Hundred Pipers and A'',
Aveluy's Scottish answered with pipers true call
'Happy we've been a'together'. When nothing
Stayed of war-weariness or winter's loathing,
Crackers with Christmas stockings hung in the heavens,
Gladness split discipline in sixes and sevens,
Hunger ebb'd magically mixed with strange leavens;
Forgotten, forgotten the hard time's true clothing,
And stars were happy to see Man making Fate plaything.

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
On Somme

Suddenly into the still air burst thudding
And thudding and cold fear possessed me all,
On the gray slopes there, where Winter in sullen brooding
Hung between height and depth of the ugly fall
Of Heaven to earth; and the thudding was illness own.
But still a hope I kept that were we there going over
I; in the line, I should not fail, but take recover
From others courage, and not as coward be known.
No flame we saw, the noise and the dread alone
Was battle to us; men were enduring there such
And such things, in wire tangled, to shatters blown.
Courage kept, but ready to vanish at first touch.
Fear, but just held. Poets were luckier once
In the hot fray swallowed and some magnificence.

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Canadians

We marched, and saw a company of Canadians
Their coats weighed eighty pounds at least, we saw them
Faces infinitely grimed in, with almost dead hands
Bent, slouching downwards to billets comfortless and dim.
Cave dwellers last of tribes they seemed, and a pity
Even from us just relieved (much as they were), left us.
Somme, what a desolation's damned land, what iniquity
Of mere being. There of what youth that country bereft us;
Plagues of evil lay in Death's Valley we also had .'
Forded that up to the thighs in chill mud almost still-stood
As they had gone — and endured day as night without sun.
Gone for five days then any sign of life glow
As the notched stumps or the gray clouds (then) we stood;
Dead past death from first hour and the needed mood
Of level pain shifting continually to and fro.
Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Stewart White ran in
My own mind; what in others? These men who finely
perhaps had chosen danger for reckless and fine chance
Fate had sent for suffering and dwelling obscenely
Vermin eaten, fed beastly, in vile ditches meanly.
(Backwoods or clean Quebec for defiled, ruined, man-killing France
And the silver thrush no more crying Canada — Canada for the memory.

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Strange Service

Little did I dream, England, that you bore me
Under the Cotswold Hills beside the water meadows,
To do you dreadful service, here, beyond your borders
And your enfolding seas.

I was a dreamer ever, and bound to your dear service
Meditating deep, I thought on your secret beauty.
As through a child's face one may see the clear spirit
Miraculously shining.

Your hills not only hills, but friends of mine and kindly,
Your tiny orchard-knolls hidden beside the river
Muddy and strongly flowing, with sky and tiny streamlets
Safe in its bosom.

Now these are memories only, and yout skies and rushy sky-pools
Fragile mirrors easily broken by moving airs
But deep in my heart for ever goes on your daily being
And uses consecrate.

Think on me too, O Mother, who wrest my soul to serve you
In strange ways and fearful beyond your encircling waters
None but you can know my heart, its tears and sacrifice
None, but you, repay.

By Ivor Gurney (July 1916)
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To Certain Comrades
(E.S. and J.H.)


Living we loved you, yet withheld our praises
Before your faces;

And though we had your spirits high in honour,
After the English manner

We said no word. Yet, as such comrades would,
You understood.

Such friendship is not touched by death's disaster,
But stands the faster;

And all the shocks and trials of time cannot
Shake it one jot.

Beside the fire at night some far December
We shall remember

And tell men, unbegotten as yet, the story
Of your sad glory -

Of your plain strength, your truth of heart, your splendid
Coolness, all ended!

All ended, . . . yet the aching hearts of lovers
Joy overcovers,

Glad in their sorrow; hoping that if they must
Come to the dust,

An ending such as yours may be their portion,
And great good fortune -

That if we may not live to serve in peace
England, watching increase -

Then death with you, honoured and swift, and high;
And so - Not Die

By Ivor Gurney

E.S. and J.H. are Privates Ernest Skillern and John Hall, who served alongside Gurney in the 2/5 Gloucesters, and who were killed in action on 20th and 21st June 1916, respectively.
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To His Love

He's gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswolds
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.

by Ivor Gurney

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
First Time In

After the dread tales and red yarns of the Line
Anything might have come to us; but the divine
Afterglow brought us up to a Welsh colony
Hiding in sandbag ditches. Then we were taken in
To low huts candle-lit, shaded close by slitten
Oilsheets, and there but boys gave us kind welcome,
So that we looked out as from the edge of home.
Sang us Welsh things, and changed all former notions
To human hopeful things. And the next day's guns
Nor any Line-pangs ever quite could blot out
That strangely beautiful entry to War's rout;
Candles they gave us, precious and shared over-rations—
Ulysses found little more in his wanderings without doubt.
'David of the White Rock', the 'Slumber Song' so soft, and that
Beautiful tune to which roguish words by Welsh pit boys
Are sung—but never more beautiful than here under the guns' noise.

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Maisemore

O when we swung through Maisemore,
The Maisemore people cheered,
And women ran from farmyards,
And men from ricks, afeared

To lose the sight of soldiers
Who would, 'fore Christmas Day,
Blow Kaiser William's Army
Like mist of breath away !

The war it was but young then !
And we were young, unknowing
The path we were to tread,
The way the path was going.

And not a man of all of us,
Marching across the bridge,
Had thought how Home would linger
In our hearts, as Maisemore Ridge.

When the darkness downward hovers
Making trees like German shadows,
How our souls fly homing, homing
Times and times to Maisemore meadows,

By Aubers Ridge that Maisemore men
Have died in vain to hold. . . .
The burning thought but once desires
Maisemore in morning gold !

O when we marched through Maisemore
Past many a creaking cart,
We little thought we had in us
Love so hot at heart.

By Ivor Gurney

[Maisemore is a small village just outside Gloucester, England, and the bridge is the bridge over the River Severn into Gloucester.]

Battle of Aubers Ridge, May 9, 1915
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Black Stitchel

As I was lying on Black Stitchel
The wind was blowing from the South
And I was thinking of the laughters
Of my love's mouth.

As I was lying on Black Stitchel
The wind was blowing from the West
And I was thinking of the quiet
Of my love's breast.

As I was lying on Black Stitchel
The wind was blowing from the North
And I was thinking of the countries
Black with wrath.

As I was lying on Black Stitchel
The wind was blowing from the East
And I could think no more for pity
Of man and beast.

By Ivor Gurney

http://youtu.be/TC9RuYKci2Q

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To The Poet Before Battle

Now, youth, the hour of thy dread passion comes;
Thy lovely things must all be laid away;
And thou, as others, must face the riven day
Unstirred by rattle of the rolling drums
Or bugles' strident cry. When mere noise numbs
The sense of being, the sick soul doth sway,
Remember thy great craft's honour, that they may say
Nothing in shame of poets. Then the crumbs
Of praise the little versemen joyed to take
Shall be forgotten; then they must know we are,
For all our skill in words, equal in might
And strong of mettle as those we honoured. Make
The name of poet terrible in just war,
And like a crown of honour upon the fight.

by Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Bach and the Sentry

Watching the dark my spirit rose in flood
On that most dearest Prelude of my delight
The low lying mist lifted its hood,
The October stars showed nobly in clear night.

When I return, and to real music-making,
And play that Prelude, how will it happen then?
Shall I feel as I felt, a sentry hardly waking,
With a dull sense of No Man's Land again?

By Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
Pain

Pain, pain continual; pain unending;
Hard even to the roughest, but to those
Hungry for beauty...Not the wisest knows,
Nor 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.

by Ivor Gurney (1917)
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com

Requiem

Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold
Your loveliest shining from earth’s outworn shell
Pure and cold your radiance – pure and cold
My dead friend's face as well.

Pour out your bounty, moon of radiant shining
On all this shattered flesh, on all these quiet forms;
For these were slain, so quiet still reclining
In the noblest cause was ever waged with arms.

by Ivor Gurney

[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Silent One

Who died on the wires, and hung there, one of two -
Who for his hours of life had chattered through
Infinite lovely chatter of Bucks accent:
Yet faced unbroken wires; stepped over, and went
A noble fool, faithful to his stripes - and ended.
But I weak, hungry, and willing only for the chance
Of life- to fight in the line, lay down under unbroken
Wires, and saw the flashes and kept unshaken,
Till the politest voice - a finicking accent, said:
‘Do you think you might crawl through there: there's a hole.'
Darkness shot at: I smiled, as politely replied –
‘I'm afraid not, Sir.' There was no hole, no way to be seen
Nothing but chance of death, after tearing of clothes.
Kept flat, and watched the darkness, hearing bullets whizzing –
And thought of music - and swore deep heart's oaths
(Polite to God) and retreated and came on again,
Again retreated a second time, faced the screen.

by Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To England - A Note

I watched the boys of England where they went
Through mud and water to do appointed things.
See one a stake, and one wire-netting brings,
And one comes slowly under a burden bent
Of ammunition. Though the strength be spent
They "carry on" under the shadowing wings
Of Death the ever-present. And hark, one sings
Although no joy from the grey skies be lent.

Are these the heroes—these? have kept from you
The power of primal savagery so long?
Shall break the devil's legions? These they are
Who do in silence what they might boast to do;
In the height of battle tell the world in song
How they do hate and fear the face of War.

by Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
The Target

I shot him, and it had to be
One of us. 'Twas him or me.
'Couln't be helped' and none can blame
Me, for you would do the same

My mother, she can't sleep for fear
Of what might be a-happening here
To me. Perhaps it might be best
To die, and set her fears at rest

For worst is worst, and worry's done.
Perhaps he was the only son. . .
Yet God keeps still, and does not say
A word of guidance anyway.

Well, if they get me, first I'll find
That boy, and tell him all my mind,
And see who felt the bullet worst,
And ask his pardon, if I durst.

All's a tangle. Here's my job.
A man might rave, or shout, or sob;
And God He takes no sort of heed.
This is a bloody mess indeed.

by Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To His Love

He's gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswolds
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.

by Ivor Gurney
[identity profile] duathir.livejournal.com
To The Poet Before Battle

Now, youth, the hour of thy dread passion comes;
Thy lovely things must all be laid away;
And thou, as others, must face the riven day
Unstirred by rattle of the rolling drums
Or bugles' strident cry. When mere noise numbs
The sense of being, the sick soul doth sway,
Remember thy great craft's honour, that they may say
Nothing in shame of poets. Then the crumbs
Of praise the little versemen joyed to take
Shall be forgotten; then they must know we are,
For all our skill in words, equal in might
And strong of mettle as those we honoured. Make
The name of poet terrible in just war,
And like a crown of honour upon the fight.

by Ivor Gurney

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