4-23: Rupert Brooke, Romanticized Patriot

[Rupert Brooke was a renowned British poet and scholar at the onset of WWI. Although he was offered a “safe” position in England during the war, he chose to remain with his naval combat unit. He contracted blood poisoning on his ship which was preparing to take part in the Allied invasion of Gallipoli. He died on April 23, 1915–Winston Churchill wrote his obituary. There is an idealism to these poems below: that sense of “glorious” war.  The use of gas as a weapon and as one example changed the face of war, however. This was trench warfare, not gallant knights clashing swords with knights errant on the opposing side. My fear, based on knowledge not intuition, is that politicians who send our people to war have not experienced physically nor embraced philosophically the realism of war. Men do not die of a saber wound to the chest. Starting in WWI they got their heads blown off when they popped them out of the trench.]

The Soldier

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.

[“If I should die …” the poem begins. The soldier is prepared to die for his beloved country. It is a lovely thought, indeed, but only that. For me, The Soldier’s blissful England is a place that never existed, but yet he was led to believe that it did and that it was therefore worth dying for–notice there is no reference to fighting or how The Soldier might die.]

Peace

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour, 
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping, 
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power, 
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping, 
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary, 
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move, 
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary, 
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath; 
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there 
But only agony, and that has ending; 
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

[“And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.” What  a sad, sad thought, that it is death that brings peace to the soldier. In Vietnam a “million dollar wound” was one that was severe enough to remove one’s buddy from the country. “You’re going home.” And then we never heard of him again.]

 

 

4 thoughts on “4-23: Rupert Brooke, Romanticized Patriot”

  1. For many years, Hollywood insulated us from the agony and bloodshed of violence. The bad guys were killed, and no blood was shed, no screams of a dying man, no torn and bloody limbs blown off. Private Ryan and Lone Survivor started to show how gruesome it really is. Its really worse. Our politicuans should be drafted first before anybody else goes to the fighting. They should be first on the front lines. That would end all wars.

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