Posts Tagged ‘WW1 poetry’

Edward Thomas died Arras 9 April 1917 WW1

April 9, 2017

One famous casualty of the Battle of Arras, fought at Easter, was the talented Country writer and poet Edward Thomas.

The Battle of Arras is being commemorated by centenary events hosted by the Commonwealth War Graves commission.

He was killed “by shellfire” (see the Wikipedia entry)  at Easter during the first day of the Battle of Arras 9 April 1917, two years after writing this Easter poem:

In Memoriam (Easter, 1915)

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

Edward Thomas

since discovering his writing as a schoolboy, I have greatly admired Edward Thomas’ prose writings and travel journals, walking across Edwardian England. This rich prose then tumbled into or was restrained into verse, famously his nature and railway poem Adlestrop and probably my favourite, As the Team’s Head Brass (see link below)

Simple, symbolic, restrained, melancholy, echoing with loss and words not said, I find “As The Teams Head Brass” almost a poem of the Forties or WWII  like the poem group by Henry Reed which includes “Naming Of Parts”.

Pick out one of his poems today, enjoy it and read it in his memory.

Edward Thomas was one of  a generation of writers including Ivor Gurney and more famous poets whose lives were ended or greatly affected by the First World War. As with all of them, who knows what fine nature writing they may have gone on to produce, but for disruption, depression and death caused by the war.

It is more than 25 years since I visited the Dymock area associated with Thomas and other prewar writers:

Edward Thomas – Celebrated and remembered 100 years on from the day of his death 9 April 1917.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project 9 April 2017.


Remembering Ivor Gurney born 28 August 1890

August 28, 2015

I believe in the increasing of life: whatever
Leads to the seeing of small trifles,
Real, beautiful, is good and an act never
Is worthier than in freeing spirit that stifles
Under ingratitude’s weight, nor is anything done
Wiselier than the moving or breaking to sight
Of a thing hidden under by custom – revealed,
Fulfilled, used (sound-fashioned) any way out to delight:
Trefoil – hedge sparrow – the stars on the edge at night.

I like the simple things (the ‘small trifles’) noticed about the natural world in this, my favourite of his poems, published as ‘The Escape‘ in Ivor Gurney’s collected poems.

Source: Chris Goddard / Wikipedia.

Gurney’s gravestone at Twigworth church, Gloucestershire. Source: Chris Goddard / Wikipedia.

28th August 2015 is the 125th anniversary of Ivor Bertie Gurney’s birth in Gloucester in 1890.  He would grow up from a working class background  to become a talented composer, setter of songs to music and, how I discovered him, poet of the countryside and of ordinary soldier in the trenches of World War 1. Mental health problems before and after the war eventually led to him spending his later years in asylums from 1923 until his death in 1937.

It is over 25 years since I visited his archive in Gloucester City Library and  not many people had  heard of him at the time. A changing cast of friends  helped me through Leicester University Theatre deliver many occasional performances (c. 1989 to 1991) of  a ‘one man show’ of Gurney poem readings called “Voices” (a ‘one man show’ about ‘one man’ using three people as different aspects of Gurney and the different characters he met). Not many people had come across him but many people responded well to his life and works.

Voices poster Leicester University Theatre  (design: Mark Norris, image source Jonathan Lightfoot.)

Voices poster Leicester University Theatre
(design: Mark Norris, image source Jonathan Lightfoot.)

Fortuitously  Jonathan Lightfoot blog posted yesterday one of the original posters for “Voices” that I hand drew and lettered before printing (in those computer scarce days).

I have the scripts somewhere: the “Escape” poem was one of the final poems, as to me it’s almost a manifesto, a summoning up of beliefs.

25 years on from Voices, Gurney’s books have now been republished, music recorded and performed and there is a flourishing Ivor Gurney Society on both sides of the Atlantic dedicated to promoting his memory, life and works.

His archive is supported / maintained by the Ivor Gurney Trust

The photos of his memorial stones come from a very full Wikipedia entry:

Gurney's memorial, Gloucester cathedral . Image: Andrew Rabbot / Wikipedia

Gurney’s memorial, Gloucester cathedral . Image: Andrew Rabbot / Wikipedia

“Do not forget me quite / O Severn Meadows”

Happy Birthday Ivor Gurney, not forgotten!

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