His life does attract our attention, and I am not suggesting we should disregard it. But, in reading his poetry (and in listening to his music), it is perhaps best to think of him simply as a soul who loved life and loved the World. And that love began and ended with England and with, above all else, his native Gloucestershire.
Only the wanderer
Knows England's graces,
Or can anew see clear
And who loves joy as he
That dwells in shadows?
Do not forget me quite,
O Severn meadows.
Ivor Gurney, Severn & Somme (Sidgwick & Jackson 1917).
Alfred Thornton (1863-1939), "The Upper Severn"
"And who loves joy as he/That dwells in shadows?" He knew exactly where he stood. This is what breaks our heart. Yet he knew this as well:
The Songs I Had
The songs I had are withered
Or vanished clean,
Yet there are bright tracks
Where I have been,
And there grow flowers
For others' delight.
Think well, O singer,
Soon comes night.
Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996). The poem appears in a notebook that Gurney used between 1921 and 1922. Ibid, page 100. It was not published during his lifetime.
Looking back, I see that Gurney's poems have appeared here in twenty or so posts over the years. We owe it to him to never forget, and to keep alive, his "bright tracks" and his "flowers." Here are a few: "The Escape;" "The Wind;" "Brimscombe;" "The Shelter from the Storm;" "Soft rain beats upon my windows;" "First Time In."
Parta Quies. "Sleep on, sleep sound."
Alfred Thornton, "Hill Farm, Painswick, Gloucestershire"