April 23, 2008

April 23 | Rupert Brooke

August 3, 1887 - April 23, 1915: Age 27

Rupert Brooke was a British poet famous for his sonnets about The Great War, and to a lesser extent for being a good-looking bisexual.

His most famous sonnet, The Soldier, is rather idealistic and contrasts with the bitter nature of the work of poets like Wilfred Owen. It is quoted a lot by people who want to celebrate the "supreme sacrifice" of a young man dying in combat. Weirdly enough, although Brooke died in 1915, it was not combat: like George Herbert, he died of an infected mosquito bite. He was on his way to a battle at Gallipoli. His friend William Brown was with him:
"...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."

He was buried in an olive grove on the Greek island of Skyros. The text of The Soldier is included below. It was part of a series of poems entitled 1914.

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.

Source: Wikipedia

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