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Vaughan Williams’s biographer, Michael Kennedy, has suggested that An Oxford Elegy recalls and pays tribute to those friends who were lost in the wars, including Gurney, who survived the war but was effectively lost to the world a few years afterwards when he was committed. In the closing stanzas of the Elegy the speaker tells how ‘thou art gone, and me thou leavest here / Sole in these fields’, and says of their shared journey and aspirations, ‘the light we sought is shining still.’ This pastoral invocation of the Elegy is something that Gurney would have related to, in both his poetry (particularly that poetry influenced by Edward Thomas) and his music. For Gurney, music—like his sense of the past—‘clung to’, and was ‘exhaled’ by, the landscape, while poetry ‘fill[ed] up spaces in landscape and life with human interest and memory’. Gurney’s Gloucestershire Rhapsody for orchestra (1919–21) depicts a similarly enchanted pastoral idyll, wandering the landscape and seeking its truth, imbued also with that keen sense of the former inhabitants of that place.
from notes by Philip Lancaster © 2018