Rupert Brooke: The Soldier

The 27 year old Rupert Brooke was already an established poet feted by the literati and those such as the Bloomsbury Set before the outbreak of World War One, though he was as much admired for his boyish good looks as he was his literary abilities attracting in equal measure the attention of both men and women, which caused him some early confusion.

He was the son of a Master at Rugby Public School and had a sheltered, if not gilded childhood, but one which allowed him to dream and his dreams of an idyllic England were ones he expressed in his poetry, though always with wit and humour.

His was not an England of ship-building, blast furnaces and mines but one of panoramic vistas, country Churches, and lakes glimmering in the summer sun.

When the opportunity came to fight for his rural idyll he embraced it and he is looked upon with scorn now by some critical of his unquestioning belief in country and unbridled patriotism.

But Brooke never lived long enough to experience the meat-grinder war of the Western Front and his idealistic verse reflected the feelings of many swept up in the enthusiasm of those early months of the war.

Brooke’s connections ensured that even with no military experience, or indeed the required training, he was commissioned as a sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve but the patriotic Rupert’s war was to be a short one.

On 23 April 1915, he died in delirium en-route to Gallipoli from the effects of a mosquito bite:

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 the 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,”

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