Rupert Brooke

Brooke had a great many admirers, many of them famous, and all seemed committed to thinking of him in the highest of terms. The famous poet Yeats referred to him as the “handsomest young man in England.” Virginia Woolf was convinced that he would be Britain’s future prime minister and even Winston Churchill upon his death wrote an obituary for The Times in his honor. D. H. Lawrence lamented his death by writing "he was slain by bright Pheobus' shaft . . . it was a real climax of his pose . . . bright Pheobus smote him down. It is all in the saga.  O God, O God; it is all too much a piece: it is like madness."
 
Brooke was given a commission in the Royal Navy, and in October 1914 he participated in the evacuation of Antwerp, Belgium. His sonnets, entitled 1914, were written in the same year over Christmas. Early in 1915, he contracted blood poisoning two days before landing at Gallipoli. He died on April 23 on the Aegean Sea and was buried on the island of Skyros. Ironically, just days before his death, his poem “The Soldier” was read from the pulpit at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on Easter Sunday to help bolster the spirit of the nation.
 
“The Soldier”

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever 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 lights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. 




Reflective Questions: “The Soldier”

  1. What are Brooke’s thoughts of his home land?
  2. In Brooke’s thinking, what is it that England gave to him?
  3. How are we to think of “the soldier” at his end?
  4. What are the lessons to be learned from this poem for each of us?