Commissioned or just endorsed? The Soldier

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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.

Doing some research on the life of Rupert Brooke, we find that before the outbreak of World War One, Rupert Brooke had friends in political circles which included Winston Churchill.

He first published some poems in 1909 and his first book of poetry was published in 1911 when he was just 24 years of age.

When war broke out in 1914, Brooke was already an established and famous poet.  His poem “The Soldier” was read during a sermon at St Paul’s by the then dean of the college. One could speculate it was used to stir the hearts of young scholars and motivate them to enlist and serve their country.

Winston Churchill gave praise to the man and his poem in 1915.

One could wonder, was the poem just endorsed and loved by the people who could influence the lives of young men they were seeking to enlist, or was the poem actually commissioned to be written.

As a literary work, I can see and applaud the language used by Rupert Brookes. The way he weaves words together, winds our heartstrings around his little finger. He has us just where he wants us. We feel the poet must be a gallant soldier ready to give up his life for his country, and to make the world a better place by his sacrifice.

The truth is that Rupert Brookes never saw action on the ground. He was an officer in the Navy, His boat was destined for Gallipoli to alight troops onto the beaches of that horrific battlefield. On the way there however, he got bitten by a mosquito and died of dysentery and blood poisoning.

Rupert had no life experience to write the poem “The Soldier”. While I applaud his other works, am I being too severe to call him a fraud as far as this poem is concerned? After reading this poem, I tend to dismiss him, and look towards the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Ivor Gurney as serious World War One poets.

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1 Comment

Filed under 20th Century Literature

One response to “Commissioned or just endorsed? The Soldier

  1. That is a fabulous expansion of the context surrounding Brooke’s poem. We can all learn from this David. Well done.
    MG

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