To his love, by Ivor Gurney

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 (1890-1937)

Ivor Gurney enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment of the British Army in 1915. He was seriously wounded in the shoulder in April 1917. He recovered and was soon sent back into battle. In September 1917, at Passchendaele, he was gassed and hospitalized again. He suffered a serious nervous breakdown in 1918 and spent much of the rest of his life in mental hospitals of various kinds. He died in 1937, of tuberculosis, in such an institution – the City of London Mental Hospital. He was a composer as well as a poet, and a short piece by him was played this morning on BBC Radio 3. I’m posting this poem today, Armistice Day, when we remember the fallen, as a reminder that the legacy of war can be brutal also for those that survive.


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