Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To His Love

To His Love

Written at Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, January 1917.
He's gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswold
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.

Ivor Gurney was both composer and poet. This poem was written at the reported death of his closest friend, Will Harvey, during the First World War. The announcement of death was premature: Harvey was captured and the threads of friendship would be retied after the war.

It is a compelling example of his gift - melancholy remembrance of place, specific yet universal sentiment, sung not spoken. I have heard his songs periodically but only recently purchased the Collected Poems. It is a fabulous volume that sings of places known - Gloucestershire and stretching outwards.

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