Ivor Gurney's 'First Time In'.

Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)

There’s a fascinating study waiting to be done comparing David Jones with Ivor Gurney.

Like David Jones, Gurney served as a private in the First World War. Like Jones, he has an established reputation in another field of the arts: in Gurney’s case, music. He was a composer of ‘art songs’ and considered, by those who know, to have been a good one.

Like Jones, Gurney was traumatised by his experiences, though in his case he spent from 1922 to his death in institutions.

Like Jones, as a poet, Gurney is perhaps not so well known. Neither of them is easily conscripted into the prevailing, ‘if it’s good it’s anti war’ mentality. His poems, while recording the horrors, also evoke the shared experience and community. Here, in ‘First Time In’, he records a memory of meeting Welsh soldiers, and his delight in their singing.

This poem is taken from ‘Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney’ (p 69). edited by P.J.Kavanagh. There is another, longer version of this poem, or another attempt to describe the same incident, on page 85