Friday, September 9, 2011

How To Live, Part Twelve: "If One's Heart Is Broken Twenty Times A Day . . ."

At times, the sadness of Ivor Gurney's poetry makes me wince.  His pain is so palpable that I sometimes feel like turning away.  But it is crucial to recognize that his poetry is not the sort of trivial and self-regarding "confessional" poetry that we moderns have come to know.

In particular, although there can be a note of complaint in Gurney's poetry, I rarely sense self-pity (a noisome staple of "confessional" poetry). Through all of his sorrow and his pain, Gurney behaves like an adult.  There is something to be learned from this.


If one's heart is broken twenty times a day,
What easier thing than to fling the bits away,
But still one gathers fragments, and looks for wire,
Or patches it up like some old bicycle tire.

Bicycle tires fare hardly on roads, but the heart
Has an easier time than rubber, they sheathe a cart
With iron, so lumbering and slow my mind must be made,
To bother the heart and to teach things and learn it its trade.

Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (1996).

"Daily" was originally published in the January, 1924, issue of The London Mercury under the title "Old Tale."  Whether "Old Tale" was Gurney's own first title, or whether it was invented by J. C. Squire, the editor of The London Mercury, I do not know.  Part of me prefers "Old Tale" over "Daily."

                                 Samuel Palmer, "A Hilly Scene" (c. 1826)


Anonymous said...

Dear Stephen,Greetings! your site/picture is the eternal garden of delights.

Stephen Pentz said...

Hari: thank you very much for visiting, and for your very kind words. I am pleased simply to be able to share my enthusiasms with others, and I am always gratified (and flattered) when someone finds their way here and enjoys what they find.

Thank you again.

Kinna said...

Oh, what a poem! I've heard of the poet though I'm not familiar with his work. Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

I'm pleased that you like the poem, Kinna. Gurney's poetry can be difficult, especially because of his sometimes odd syntax and punctuation. But I think that it is well worth the effort. As always, thank you for visiting and commenting.