On this day in 1887, English poet Rupert Brooke, described by W.B. Yeats as “the handsomest young man in England,” is born.
Rupert Chawner Brooke is known for his idealist war sonnets written at the beginning of WWI. While his poem,“The Soldier,” also known as “Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier” was immediately popular, looking back there is a nuance of sentimentality, even naïveté.
Robert Brooke died on April 23, 2015 at the beginning the WWI. He was on a ship to the Dardanelles when he died from blood poisoning from an insect bite. I have often wondered if he had lived through the war, whether his poetry would have been more in step with Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves. Alas, we shall never know.
Poetry is a reflection of a time and place. Rupert Brooke captured the spirit of a nation during a patriotic moment. Some critics,”argue that Brooke’s poetry—especially the “Nineteen Fourteen” sequence—is important as a barometer of England between 1910 and 1915. As Eder states, “Brooke’s war sonnets perfectly captured the mood of the moment.” Poetry Foundation
The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.