"REMEMBER THY GREAT CRAFT'S HONOUR, THAT THEY MAY SAY/ NOTHING IN SHAME OF POETS": IVOR GURNEY'S SEVERN AND SOMME, 1917 FIRST EDITION
GURNEY, Ivor. Severn and Somme. London: Sidgwick & Jackson LTD., 1917. Small 8vo, original red cloth, printed spine label, original dust jacket. Housed in custom cloth slipcase. $4800.
First edition of the poet-composer's first book of war poems, in scarce original dust jacket.
Gurney was gassed at Passchendaele in August 1917 and evacuated to the Bangour War Hospital near Edinburgh in September. In November, following his convalescence, he was considered unfit to return to the front immediately and was posted to the Command Depot at Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, for a signaling course. It was there that he met Ratcliffe Barnett, his chaplain and "the man who is keeping myself and a singer here. The man who told us after service yesterday, 'I hate parsons!' That rare thing, especially among his kind, of being a Truth-teller, Lecturer on English Literature, Mountaineer, Lover of Men, Music, and Books" (Letters to Marion Scott, October, 1917). The poetry in Severn and Somme was inspired by Gurney's beloved Gloucestershire and by his experience on the Western Front in 1916. As he writes in his Preface: "All these verses were written in France, and in sound of the guns, save only two or three earlier pieces… people of home, and most of all, people of Gloucester, may well be indulgent to one who thought of them so often, and whose images of beauty in the mind were always of Gloucester, county of Cotswold and Severn and a plain rich, blossomy, and sweet of airs—as the wise Romans knew, who made their homes in exile by the brown river, watching the further bank for signs of war." Eccentric and often misunderstood from childhood, Gurney's experience of trench warfare seems to have exacerbated his schizophrenic tendencies. After the war, his mental state deteriorated; he heard hallucinatory voices, fell into senseless rages, and attempted suicide; from 1922 until his death in 1937 he lived in various mental hospitals, with the exception of one intense period of musical invention in 1925, a victim of undiagnosed psychotic behavior. Reilly, 151. Grolier, Soldier Poets of the Great War. Owner pencil signature.
Book fine; very good original dust jacket with a few small chips, toned spine, minor dampstaining to rear panel only, front panel clean and bright. Quite desirable in the scarce original dust jacket.