Episode 22

Two Poems of World War I


April 27th, 2021

24 mins 43 secs

Season 2

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About this Episode

In this episode, we talk with Vince Sherry about two poems of WWI: Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" and Ivor Gurney's "To His Love." The first poem, a stately beauty, imagines war almost peacefully; the second poem, scarred by combat, speaks back nervously and angrily. We talk through this remarkable set of poems and experiences and examine how a careful use of language conveys their effects.

"The Soldier"
by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

To His Love
by Ivor Gurney

He's gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswold
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.

His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn river
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.

You would not know him now ...
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.

Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers—
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.

For more on Rupert Brooke, see The Poetry Foundation.

For more on Ivor Gurney, see The Poetry Foundation.

Gurney was also a prolific composer. For a sample of his music, see his Goucestershire Rhapsody.

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