War Poetry written in 1917 became rather more sceptical of the war
By Ivor Gurney
If it were not for England, who would bear
This heavy servitude one moment more?
To keep a brothel, sweep and wash the floor
Of filthiest hovels were noble to compare
With this brass-cleaning life. Now here, now there
Harried in foolishness, scanned curiously o'er
By fools made brazen by conceit, and store
Of antique witticisms thin and bare.
Only the love of comrades sweetens all,
Whose laughing spirit will not be outdone.
As night-watching men wait for the sun
To hearten them, so wait I on such boys
As neither brass nor Hell-fire may appal,
Nor guns, nor sergeant-major's bluster and noise.
Ivor Gurney was a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. At the outbreak of war he volunteered as a private in the Gloucestershire regiment but was initially turned down because of poor eyesight.
He joined the 2nd and 5th Gloucestershire regiment in 1915.
He was wounded and gassed in 1917 while serving in France.