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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crickley Hill - Ivor Gurney



I knew that there was a poet called Ivor Gurney who wrote of Crickley not least because of the quotation from his poem 'Crickley Hill' which appears at the front of 'Crickley Hill: the Hillfort Defences'. I have recently unearthed Gurney's poems in the excellent Oxford First World War Poetry Digital Archive.

The images of Gurney's papers above are © Gloucester County Council 2008. They show a fair copy of the manuscript written out by Gurney's friend, Marion Scott. He wrote the poem whilst a patient at Lord Derby's War Hospital.

Crickley Hill

The orchis, trefoil, harebells nod all day,
High above Gloucester and the Severn plain.
Few come there where the curlew ever and again
Cries faintly, and no traveller makes stay,
Since steep the road is,
And the villages
Hidden by hedges wonderful in late May.

At Buire-au-Bois a soldier wandering
The lanes at evening talked with me and told
Of gardens summer blessed, of early spring
In tiny orchards, the uncounted gold
Strewn in green meadows,
Clear cut shadows
Black on the dust and grey stone mellow and old.

But these were things I knew, and carelessly
Heard, while in thought I went with friends on roads
White in the sun, or wandered far to see
The scented hay come homeward in warm loads:
Hardly I heeded him;
While the coloured dim
Evening brought stars and lights in small abodes.

When on a sudden, "Crickley" he said. How I started
At that old darling name of home, and turned,
Fell into a torrent of words warm hearted
Till clear above the stars of summer burned
In velvety smooth skies.
We shared memories,
And the old raptures from each other learned.

O sudden steep! O hill towering above!
Chasm from the road falling suddenly away!
Sure no two men talked of you with more love
Than we that tendered-coloured ending of the day.
(O tears! Keen pride in you!)
Feeling the soft dew,
Walking in thought another Roman way.

You hills of home, woodlands, white roads and inns
That star and line our darling land, still keep
Memory of us; for when the first day begins
We think of you and dream in the first sleep
Of you and yours -
Trees, bare rock, flowers
Daring the blast on Crickley's distant steep.

Warrington, July 1918

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