A blog for Senior Project 1 about sonnets and trenches
Pro Patria Mori
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Photograph of Brooke by
Rupert Brooke was born August 2, 1887 to William, a schoolmaster, and Ruth
Brooke in Rugby, Warwickshire.
Brooke's writing of renaissance theater won him a scholarship to King's
College, Cambridge where he was a member of the Cambridge Apostles
, an intellectual society, and was president of the Cambridge University
, a liberal political voice within the university. At Cambridge, Brooke
befriended a number of future Bloomsbury
members, a group of intellectuals working around Bloomsbury, London.
Besides being known for his writing, Brooke also was admired for his looks.
William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet, describe him as the "handsomest man in
England," and Virginia Wolf, writer and Bloomsbury member, boasted about skinny
dipping with Brooke.
In 1912, Brooke had a mental breakdown from the end of his relationship with
Katherine Laird Cox caused by jealousy. After rehabilitation in Germany, Brooke
would travel to the United States and Canada, writing back to the Westminster
Gazette and breaking more hearts. His writing gained the attention of the First
Lord of the Admiral, Winston Churchill, and was commissioned into the Royal
Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant.
Brooke's poems in the navy often have an idealistic depiction of war, like
and The Soldier
. In The Soldier, Brooke glorifies his potential death for his country. That
his body, and the land it becomes, belongs to England and makes 'rich earth'
'richer' due to his experienced English air, water, and sun. Though, it's
interesting to think of the line as "blest by sons
of home," as Brooke
had lots of admiration from friends, colleagues, and superiors. He goes on to
say his heart has no evil since England gave him positive thoughts, and he
returned positive thoughts. That England would continue to be a peaceful,
gentle heaven of pleasant sights, sounds, and people. All this, to describe
death during wartime. Brooke speaks of laughter, flowers, gentleness, and the
sun in relation to death and war, in a what would be titled The Soldier. The
Soldier shows some very Victorian themes, like the romantic ideals of war and
enthusiastic patriotism. Ideas that would clash with gruesome horrors of the
Great War and following pessimism for the future. Though, for as unrealistic a
depiction of death in war Brooke describes, his own death would seem to be as
peaceful and ideal as what he wrote in his poem.
If 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.
Brooke died at 4:46 pm on April 23, 1915 of Sepsis from an infected mosquito
bite while with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He was buried at 11 pm
in an olive grove on the Greek island of Skyros. Musician, friend, and fellow
shipmate, William Denis Browne chose the site and wrote:
...I sat with Rupert. At 4 o’clock he became weaker, and at 4.46 he died, with
the sun shining all round his cabin, and the cool sea-breeze blowing through
the door and the shaded windows. No one could have wished for a quieter or a
calmer end than in that lovely bay, shielded by the mountains and fragrant with
sage and thyme.
Browne would be killed in action on June 4, 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign.