Week 249: Yesterday Lost, by Ivor Gurney

The artist John Constable once wrote ‘The world is wide: no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither are there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world’

I think he would approved of this little poem by Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) on a similar theme. As with many of Gurney’s poems, the syntax may seem a bit odd in places, but the individuality and sincerity of the man shine through. Who else, except perhaps Gerard Manley Hopkins, could have written that ‘precise unpraisèd grace’?

Yesterday Lost

What things I have missed today, I know very well,
But the seeing of them each next day is miracle.
Nothing between Bredon and Dursley has
Any day yesterday’s precise unpraisèd grace.
The changed light, or curve changed mistily,
Coppice, now bold cut, yesterday’s mystery.
A sense of mornings, once seen, for ever gone,
Its own for ever: alive, dead, and my possession.

Ivor Gurney

Week 24: It is near Toussaints, by Ivor Gurney

It is near Toussaints

It is near Toussaints, the living and dead will say:
‘Have they ended it? What has happened to Gurney?’
And along the leaf-strewn roads of France many brown shades
Will go, recalling singing, and a comrade for whom also they
Had hoped well…

On the night of all the dead, they will remember me,
Pray Michael, Nicholas, Maries lost in Novembery
River-mist in the old City of our dear love, and batter
At doors about the farms crying ‘Our war poet is lost.
Madame, no bon!’ – and cry his two names, warningly, sombrely.

Ivor Gurney

The poems of the First World War poet Ivor Gurney dance on the edge of disintegration – it could be argued that not many of them achieve completeness, but they are brave and vulnerable and usually offer some memorable quirk of observation or language.