Last year saw the publication of a novel by Robert Edric in which Ivor Gurney featured as one of the central characters, In Zodiac Light. This is not the first work of fiction based around Gurney's life (c.f. Jon Silkin's play, Gurney), but it is the first novelised commentary (as such), which seems, in its focus on a war poet in a mental hospital, to be following in the footsteps of Pat Barker's acclaimed Regeneration.
Whilst Edric's novel features a number of historical inaccuracies in its pages - intentionally or otherwise - the book is prefaced by an intriguing poem from which the volume takes its name:
'I walked midsummer in Flaxley Wood,
And waited through the daylong night;
Attendant of a world not come,
And cast by dark in zodiac light.'
It is attributed to Gurney, titled 'In Flaxley Wood', and is cited as having been published in the London Mercury, 17 June 1921.
Whilst preparing the Ivor Gurney Society newsletter recently, I endeavoured to find this poem, it not being one that I recognised, and, not finding it in any of the published volumes of poetry nor in the archive catalogue, noted that I would be seeking the poem in the cited source to confirm its existence.
Before I could get to the British Library to look up the relevant issue of LM one of the members, Jeff Cooper, kindly sought the poem in the location cited, only to find that it was not in the June edition (it being published monthly, not more regularly as the '17 June' citation might have one believe. Nor could he find it in any other volume of LM, confirming that it was not an omission on the part of Kelsey Thornton and George Walter in their remarkably thorough Gurney Bibliography.
This poses the question, where does this poem come from? And is it truly Gurney? The location of Flaxley Wood, near Newnham, Gloucestershire, is plausible for Gurney, but is this prefatory verse as fictionalised as the remainder of the book?
If Robert Edric reads this, we would be very glad if you could please enlighten us as to the source of this poem. Thank you!