Ivor Gurney (Ivor Bertie Gurney) Biography
(1890–1937), (Ivor Bertie Gurney), Severn and Somme, War's Embers, Rewards of Wonder
British poet and composer, born in Gloucester, educated at the Royal College of Music. He was on active service in Flanders from 1915 to 1918, when he was discharged after being wounded and gassed. He returned to the Royal College of Music in 1919. Severn and Somme (1917), his first collection of verse, was favourably reviewed; War's Embers (1919) was well received, though reservations were expressed over its colloquially direct diction. A third collection, provisionally entitled Rewards of Wonder, was rejected by his publisher in 1919. The more orthodox modes of the previous work, which often forms rich evocations of rural Gloucestershire, was superseded by new approaches suggested by his readings of Hopkins and Whitman. His increasingly idiosyncratic manner was manifest in juxtapositions of a passionate lyricism with strikingly factual documentation of conditions on the Western Front. During the period 1918 to 1922 his career in poetry and music progressed encouragingly: his poems appeared in influential journals and his first published compositions, Five Elizabethan Songs (1920), were highly acclaimed. Ludlow and Teme (1923) and The Western Playland (1926), his settings of verse by A. E. Housman, and Lights Out (1925), his treatments of six poems by Edward Thomas, were mainly written at this time. Following a deterioration of his mental health, which had been uncertain for some time, in 1922 he was committed to the City of London Mental Hospital in Dartford, where he remained until his death. He continued to compose music and poetry, though his output diminished after 1926. Five volumes of his songs were published between 1938 and 1980. Collected Poems, edited by P. J. Kavanagh, appeared in 1982. The Ordeal of Ivor Gurney, a biography by Michael Hurd, appeared in 1978.